Think about your health care coverage
Canada’s “free health care” probably doesn’t include you: Canada’s socialized health care system provides free care to residents and some other people in the country, but not to visitors. “Travelers who become ill or injured while abroad in Canada must pay in full at the time of treatment if they do not have a medical insurance policy that will cover their care,” said Michelle Couch-Friedman, Director Executive of Elliott Advocacy. , a US-based non-profit group that provides travel advice to consumers.
Couch-Friedman notes that many travelers are unaware that their national insurance (such as Medicare) will not cover them outside the country, even in a country next door. Before crossing the border, she recommends shopping for travel insurance on a site that compares plans based on your personal details and needs (eg: insuremytrip.com). She suggests purchasing both medical and evacuation insurance, so your return home is also covered, should you need it.
What you can do: Read the fine print, ask as many questions as you need when shopping, and always make sure your policy includes COVID -19 coverage. “Ask specifically what is covered,” says Gillen. “Often times, insurance only covers unknown risks and in some cases COVID is outside of that.”
Be aware of the different rules across Canada
While some restrictions apply across the country, Canada’s ten provinces and three territories also enforce their own pandemic regulations and may also require quarantines for arrivals from elsewhere in Canada. In addition, vaccination passports are or soon will be required in several provinces, including British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. These are needed to enter non-essential places such as concert halls, cinemas, and restaurants. And note: mask warrants are currently in place in every province and territory.
What you can do: Visit a province’s website before you go there to check their latest rules. For example, this site run by the government of British Columbia provides an overview of that province’s entry requirements and restrictions, as well as nuances on the ground (you’ll learn that many of its Indigenous communities are not not currently welcoming visitors). If you are traveling to multiple destinations across the country, this Government of Canada website provides an overview of all provincial rules in one place.
It is best to book well in advance (if you can). While many travelers may hit the road this fall expecting plentiful rooms and off-season deals, the pandemic has reduced capacity and availability in many Canadian destinations. Marieke Gow, general manager of the Artisan Inn, a boutique property in the picturesque coastal village of Trinity, Newfoundland, notes that rental cars have become scarce in many places and staff shortages mean some businesses close early for the season or operate on a limited basis.
What you can do: In Gow’s words: “Plan, plan, plan. Letting hosts and restaurants know you plan to visit will help avoid disappointment. It’s also not too early to book your trip in 2022. But due to the unpredictability of the pandemic, you’ll want to make sure there is no or a small penalty for changes or cancellations, and consider insuring your trip.