Going Alone? Travel Insurance is a Must.

Rock climbing in Austrian Alps Tyrol photo

Yes, when getting ready to do rock climbing it did occur to me that it was a good thing I had travel insurance.

I write about travel insurance about once a year. I do so, because it’s important for all travelers. For solo travelers, it’s an absolute must.

Whether it’s getting sick from food in Paris or tripping on a root while hiking Patagonia, things can go wrong. Little things that can cause big problems.

While I have accumulated a fair understanding of travel insurance over the years, I prefer to chat with an expert before making a decision on what to buy.  This post is sponsored by Insurance Hunter, a Canadian company, and is the result of me asking them five important questions about travel insurance. Their answers revealed a few things I didn’t know.

In China I did a fabulous face plant in the middle of the street. An accident can happen anywhere.

In China I did a fabulous face plant in the middle of the street. An accident can happen anywhere.

1. What kind of travel insurance should solo travelers consider?

The primary goal of a travel insurance policy is to protect travelers from medical emergencies. It is also common to find policies that include benefits for unexpected trip cancellation, interruption, or baggage loss.

It’s important to remember that, as a Canadian, your provincial health coverage offers limited benefits when you travel outside of Canada. [This may apply to other nationalities and their health insurance plans as well.] Travel Insurance helps coordinate overall care to ensure you are getting the right treatment at the nearest facility and minimizing your out-of-pocket expenses. This is answered in a video here.

So what exactly should I look for in a policy?

Before purchasing travel insurance, travelers should consider their pre-existing medical conditions and the risks associated with treatment for those conditions while away. Some insurance policies may offer full coverage for existing conditions while other policies use a stability clause to limit the events that are covered. Speak with a knowledgeable insurance broker to understand the type of emergency medical coverage that is best for you. 

    With so many bags going down so many conveyor belts and passed by so many hands every day, it's not surprising the luggage gets lost.

With so many bags going down so many conveyor belts and passed by so many hands every day, it’s not surprising the luggage gets lost.

2. Do trip cancellation and lost luggage insurance differ between companies?

Travel insurance is unregulated in Canada, so insurers are free to design their own policy wordings.  As a result, travelers will find: minor differences in benefits offered; limitations in one policy and not another; and, exclusions in some places but not in others. It is important to review your policy wording to understand how you are protected.

What are the standard benefits in trip cancellation and lost luggage insurance?

Most Canadian insurers include standard benefits in their policies to protect against these risks. Common trip cancellation benefits include medical emergencies before departure, severe weather, pregnancy, loss or change of employment status, or simply a cancelled business meeting. This is answered in a video here.

All all my receipts are in Chinese.

Make sure you get receipts for all medical services you receive.

3. What should people look for medical insurance?

Most policies should cover expenses for medical attention, paramedical services, ambulance, emergency dental, and expenses to return home or bring family to your bedside. All of these are basic benefits you should expect to see. When shopping for coverage, compare the dollar limits available for similar benefits. For example, two policies may offer emergency dental coverage, but one may offer $500 in coverage while another provides $5,000. This is answered in a video here.

What if I have a pre-existing condition?

To cover pre-existing conditions, some policies require that your conditions  have been stable for a period of time. Understand your stability period and compare  stability clauses when shopping for a policy. Pay special attention to the policy’s definition of “Stable” and “Treatment”. These definitions can vary, and directly impact your available medical coverage.

Where you're gong and what you're doing may affect the amount of insurance you buy.

Where you’re going and what you’re doing may affect the amount of insurance you buy.

4. How do I decide how much insurance is enough?

If travelling abroad, ensure your policy offers at least one million dollars of emergency medical coverage. Leading travel insurance policies typically offer between one and five million dollars coverage. With the climbing costs of medical care around the world, travelers really cannot have “enough coverage”.

Can I be over-insured?

It is not uncommon to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills with just a few days in a U.S. hospital. Travelers owe it to themselves and their families to travel with the right coverage for their health. This is answered in a video here.


Like going the wrong way on a one-way street, there are mistakes your don’t want to make.

5. What are the top three mistakes people make when buying travel insurance?

  1. Not buying any insurance – Many believe they are covered by their provincial health plan, rely on credit card coverage or some other group benefit without ever understanding the benefits and limitations with those policies. 
  2. Buying at the wrong time – Travel Insurance is time sensitive. You may not want to purchase too early if you feel your health will change in the coming months. However, emergency medical policies must be purchased before departing your home province for coverage to be in effect. For Trip Cancellation and interruption insurance, most insurers require that the policy be purchased within 7 days of booking the trip. We suggest shopping for travel insurance before making a deposit on your trip. When you book your next holiday, you will be ready to get the right coverage at the right price.
  3. Not understanding the stability clause and important definitions – Many assume that because they have pre-existing conditions, there is no travel coverage available. However, many options exist to cover conditions with or without a stability clause. Understand your current health and compare policies to determine the best fit. Price and coverage can vary for each person so it’s best to speak with a licensed insurance broker to get the right advice. Travel with confidence in knowing that you are covered for the unexpected medical emergency.

And one final video thanks to Insurance Hunter.

  • Elaine Beckham

    in some instances there is an age limit I’ve noticed. I’m planning on traveling for 9 to 12 months internationally and I’m not sure which insurance company will insure me as I am 68. Also I am a resident of the USA. Anyone got any suggestions?

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  • anne

    Absolutely agree with you .. essential and important , always have it , as you say , even just for Paris.