Milan Korcok

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Milan Korcok is a national award-wining journalist, author and medical writer who has been covering international health care activities and trends in Canada, The U.S., and abroad for many years. He was the first features editor of the Medical Post in Canada He has long served as contributing editor to the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the Journal of the American Medical Association and currently serves as contributor to the International Travel and Health Insurance Journal in the UK.

New US Rules Require COVID Test Results—Even if You Have Been Vaccinated

Effective January 26, 2021, all international travellers (including Canadians) flying to the US are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of departure, or validation from their physician that they have sufficiently recovered from infection by the coronavirus. The rule, issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in effect reciprocates a similar one effective January 7, issued by the Canadian government for international travellers flying into Canada. But an important adjunct to the CDC rule that is causing some confusion among seniors already vaccinated against the coronavirus insists that their vaccination doesn’t exempt them from the negative test requirement. It’s a head-scratcher, but it’s true. Even though you may have recently received your two jabs—either of the Pfizer/ BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine—you will still have to show proof of a negative test taken within three days of boarding your flight. Says…

Confused by Post-Brexit European Travel? No Sweat

Now that Brexit is a done deal, you might wonder how it will affect your summer or fall travel plans to Europe—assuming and hoping that COVID is by then brought under enough control that flying around the globe is safe again. Until that clearance is sounded, you should keep abreast of any changes to entry requirements for all countries to which you’ll be travelling and/or transiting through. Though entry to any country in the Schengen area (which covers 26 nations—most of them in the EU) normally allows Canadian and American citizens to travel without visas or further passport inspections, individual nations within this union have the right to impose temporary border inspections if certain emergencies (such as illicit migration surges or terrorist threats) emerge. Also, proof of health insurance coverage up to EU standards (at least €40,000) may be required at any stop along the way. Individual countries are increasingly…

Vaccine Arrival Sparks Traveller Hopes, But Canadians Remain Cautious

Though arrivals of COVID-19 vaccines may give us hope that travel restrictions might soon be relaxed, Canadians remain cautious about planning international—or even, to some extent, domestic—trips any time soon. According to a new survey by the Conference Board of Canada, while 87 per cent of Canadians say they miss travelling, three quarters insist they won’t travel out of the country until a vaccine is available, and 53 per cent say the same about domestic travel. Meanwhile, one quarter of respondents to the survey do not plan to get vaccinated. Furthermore, if and when airline travellers decide to pack up and go, 66 per cent want mandatory face masks used by all ground and in-air staff and 57 per cent want distancing space retained—to some degree. Survey respondents also revealed that their fears about exposure to COVID were most pronounced about the modes of transportation—more than half were “extremely or…

Update on European Travel Authorizations: Deferred to 2022

Early in 2019 we alerted you to the European Union’s forthcoming travel authorization scheme requiring Canadians and Americans (as well as citizens of 60 other nations who do not normally require visas for European travel) to file for pre-authorization to visit any of its member countries as of January 2021.  The scheme, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), has been deferred to late 2022 to allow all member countries to better coordinate and come into compliance with each other. Nothing comes easily or without glitches in the EU’s multinational operations. That start date is also tentative as there is likely to be an official launch toward the end of 2022 but it will not be mandatory until 2023. Additionally, a 6-month grace period is planned to allow eligible travellers to become familiarized with the new regulations. So all we can say today is “for now you can relax,” but “stay…

It’s Your Policy. Take Responsibility. Take Your Time

More than ever, travel insurance products are giving customers in less-than-perfect health opportunities to leave home, visit friends and relatives in distant countries, and even indulge themselves in leisure activities that would have been unthinkable a decade or two ago. Even for the elderly, given their normal range of chronic conditions (e.g., high blood pressure, heart flutters, diabetes, artery or vein disorders), coverage may be available so long as their health has remained stable for specified periods (three months, perhaps six) and they have completed their medical questionnaires accurately and haven’t “shaded” the truth to gain a slight reduction in premiums. Such attempts at “savings” can turn into financial catastrophes if the insurer is forced to deny a claim for emergency medical services because you failed to fully or accurately disclose that you had been “checked out” for a respiratory condition within the past three months, or that your medication…

Simple Tools for Avoiding US Taxes for Canadian Snowbirds

Canadians spending long periods in the US on B2 visitor’s visas (see our previous article) often ask at what point their presence becomes taxable to Uncle Sam. It’s a good question because paying taxes at home is irritating enough. You don’t want to get tangled up with tax demands from two governments. And the good news is that the great majority of snowbirds won’t have to pay US taxes. But they need to follow some not-too-complicated rules. Let’s take it from the top The demands of the IRS, which governs tax collection, and the requirements of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency, which controls who enters the country and for how long, are separate. CBP agents are not tax collectors. The IRS, however, is. And it wants to know if you spend enough time in the US to be considered a resident for tax purposes. Don’t read that as…

How Long Canadians Can Visit the US: A Review

Every now and then, the question of how long or how often Canadians can visit or tour the United States each year comes up from someone who has heard a horror story about a border-crossing mishap. And though I have written many thousands of words on this subject over more than 25 years, there always seems to be room for an update—especially as travel regulations constantly seem to be changing and new requirements for international travel keep being announced. Since hundreds of thousands of Canadians spend entire winters in the US, it’s worth setting the record straight. And that’s easy. It’s not complicated. Thanks to the special relationship that exists between Canada and the US, there is a preferential arrangement between our countries that allows Canadians to visit the US for up to six months per each rolling 12-month period. That is an allowance deemed under the B2 visa which covers…

Will Canadians Return to Cuba after COVID-19?

Now that vacation flights have resumed to Cuba, albeit on a limited scale, can we expect Canadians to maintain their position as that Caribbean country’s most favoured source of tourism? It seems so: with Canadians accounting for one-fourth of all tourists to Cuba (1.1 million of 4.4 million in 2019), that lead is likely untouchable, for now at least. The runner-up USA, which provided 650,000 tourists (mostly on special group and family-connection programs) in 2019, will continue to lessen its numbers as the long-standing trade embargo is strengthened. But there is no shortage of tourists from Europe and Asia applying for Cuban tourist visas, and high among them are Russian tourists, who have already started chartered flights into Cuba this month (along with German tourists). In 2019, approximately 178,000 Russians visited Cuba—up 30 per cent from the previous year. According to Cuban authorities, Russians have submitted the fourth-highest number of…

Still Hope for the 240-Day Visa? Patience is a Virtue

For more than a decade, Canadian snowbirds hoping for permission to spend more time in warm-weather states south of the border have pegged their hopes on passage of US federal legislation amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to authorize their admission for up to 240 days—eight months per year. That’s two months more than is currently available through the standard B2 tourist visa, which is what Canadians use when hopping the border for a one-day sports event—or for a 183-day winter vacation in Florida or Arizona. Known generically as the “Snowbird Visa,” the amended visa would allow Canadian citizens aged 50 or older to reside in the US for up to eight months per year contingent on their retaining homes in Canada, owning or leasing long-term residences in the US, waiving all rights to welfare or public assistance funding, and refraining from any employment or other work for hire. In effect: tourism…

Can’t Wait to Get Back to Cruising? Expect Changes

In 2019, Canadians took almost one million cruises, sailing oceans, lakes, and rivers around the world. And a large majority of them say they would do it again. Cruisers are a committed lot—all surveys confirm it. Then came COVID, and though it took some time, cruisers returned home, wondering when or if they would get another chance to sail. Now, almost nine months later, the question remains. When will cruising resume? And how will the experience be changed? Since the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) first issued its “no sail” order for ships in US waters (March 14, 2020), there have been a few isolated attempts at cruise resumptions—primarily in the Mediterranean and other parts of Europe. But outbreaks of COVID on some of these voyages have cut them short as well. Since then, extensions of the “no sail” order have been continued through to the end of October.…

You’ve Covered “Medical” Insurance—Now What About “Cancellation”?

If there is anything positive to be said about how travellers have been impacted by COVID, it’s that trip cancellation insurance has become a “top of the mind” issue. For Canadians that’s critical, because though more than 70 per cent of travellers normally buy emergency out-of-country medical coverage, fewer than a third have, up to now, considered trip cancellation/interruption insurance a necessity. No longer. With millions of the world’s travellers now lining up for refunds or rebates for cancelled air travel, cruises, or tour packages due to COVID, the focus has shifted to gaining some assurance that family finances are also protected in case of unexpected disruption. Fortunately, there is no shortage of trip cancellation/interruption products in the travel insurance marketplace, but understanding the conditions of coverage, the limitations and exclusions, and how and when one goes about getting a “refund” when travel plans go awry is part of the…

Travel Demands Determination—Don’t Give Up

Though the Canadian government continues to warn against all international travel because of ongoing COVID-19 prevalence, the US State Department has begun easing its warnings for most countries down to Level 3 (Reconsider travel) from the highest Level 4 (Do not travel). Canada is now listed in the Level 3 range even though the border with the US remains shut to non-essential travel. Still on the US “Do Not Travel” list are such major destinations as Mexico, Russia, China, Brazil, India, Egypt, and several countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. However, despite the warning level easing for outbound travel, there are still some European countries that do not allow Americans entry for leisure purposes, or that at least demand certain health checks or other clearance conditions. Canadians, however, are welcome in more countries—even though your government would prefer you to stay home. How do you plan ahead? So…

Time to Shake the Pandemic Blues? Maybe Soon

Tired of sitting in your backyard—alone? Bored by bureaucratic admonitions to wear your mask, stand apart, wash your hands, and sneeze into your elbow? Hang in there. More and more countries are prepared to welcome you but you still need to be selective. At this point much of Europe is open to Canadians (if you can find flights that fit your schedule and budget). All airlines are flying greatly reduced schedules and you may have to provide proof of a recent negative COVID test, but that’s a small price to pay for salvaging something out of the dwindling summer and upcoming fall. The Caribbean too is welcoming Canadians—albeit doing the limbo with a mask may be a little challenging—but mainland guests are highly prized and prices are quite reasonable. Also, as you may have read in the mainstream media, some Canadian insurers are now offering coverage for COVID-related medical services…

Canadian Travel Insurers Prepared to Offer COVID Coverage

Media announcements that major insurers are prepared to start covering COVID-related medical emergencies for Canadian out-of-country travelers will clearly put pressure on the federal government to ease its restrictions on international travel. At present, Travel Canada maintains its “Avoid all non-essential “ warning for all foreign travel, even though European nations have opened up their borders to several countries—among them Canada—which they consider has adequately controlled the spread of COVID. The advisory warns that if travelers choose to defy the advisory “your insurance may not cover your travel or medical expenses.” That of course, is a decision to be made by individual insurers not by government, and Manulife, Allianz and TUGO, Canada’s largest travel insurers have confirmed that as soon as the feds drop their advisory, they are prepared to offer COVID cover in most of their policies, under the existing limitations in their policies. And Medipac International, the designated…

Is Florida In Your Sights This Winter? A Ground Level Report.

As the Canadian/US border shutdown moves towards autumn, snowbirds and short- term winter vacationers are being left with little time to plan their next moves or commit to travel plans that many have considered their God-given right during inconsiderate winter weather. Though many Caribbean countries and Mexico have sent a hearty welcome to their northern neighbours, (see our previous article on this issue) there are some caveats that go with the invitation—masks, distancing, virus test verifications, stripped-down luxuries, even beach and surf patrols to ensure proper behaviour. Not great, but perhaps tolerable considering the alternative. Florida at ground level. Despite these offerings by other warm weather destinations, Florida remains Canada’s pre-eminent winter vacation destination, and given the recent reports of COVID surges throughout the state, many of them somewhat overblown, let’s take a ground level look everyday life in the Sunshine State today and what Canadians might expect to see…

EU Welcomes “Safe” Canadian Travellers. But Are You Ready?

Now that Canadians have earned a spot on the European Union’s safe travellers list, does that mean you are free and clear to book summer vacations or family visits wherever you like throughout the EU? The short answer is Maybe, and there are many contingencies to consider before you set your sights on spending part of the summer in Britain, France, Germany, Finland, Italy or any of the other EU member countries. The UK, for example has taken the biggest step forward in welcoming foreign visitors by dropping the 14-day quarantine requirement for those from “safe” countries (US is not included) as well for returning Brits. Ironically, the biggest problem for Canadians planning overseas travel is not their destination country, but Ottawa, which requires (as of this date) that Canadians returning from abroad may still be subject to 14-day self-quarantines. Sort of “Welcome Home. But…” Specifically, Travel Canada warns: “While…

Be Cautious of “Opening Day” Specials at Caribbean Resorts

Though vacation resorts throughout the Caribbean and Mexico are promoting re-opening dates throughout July and August. Canadians need to be careful about committing to firm reservations and deposits. You may be in for a culture shock. Let’s take Jamaica as an example because its tourism ministry has provided a detailed protocol (in 120 pages) that all hotels and resorts must follow in protecting their international visitors and their own citizens from the effects of COVID-19. It is expected to guide other Caribbean nations as they open up, which many have already done or will do in the next few weeks. Before you even board your flight to Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston or Sangster International in Montego Bay, you’ll need to have some form of certification that you have tested negative for COVID. If not, expect be swab-tested on arrival, and to undergo a temperature check. Then when you…

Canada Accommodates International Students: Even Through the Pandemic

As America prepares to pare down its recruitment of international students—citing tighter immigration controls, job protection for homegrown graduates, concerns about China’s infiltration of intellectual properties, and the lingering consequences of COVID —Canada’s colleges and universities are polishing the welcome mat, beefing up online alternatives, extending post-graduate work guarantees, and ultimately strengthening Canada’s position as the world’s third most favoured destination for international students. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), international students to Canada have more than trebled their numbers since 2009, peaking at 642,000 in 2019—behind only the US and Australia. Of these, 48 percent have chosen to study in Ontario, 23 percent in British Columbia, 14 percent in Quebec and the remainder have spread across all of Canada’s other provinces. Clearly, the onset of COVID will impact those numbers going into 2020/2021. But in May, IRCC announced accommodations to shield international students from major disruptions by…

Travel Insurance is Not “Optional” in Navigating the Pandemic

If ever there was ever a time for Canadians to consider travel insurance mandatory—this is it. With much of the western world inching toward re-opening leisure (non-essential) travel, the prospects for mandatory temperature checks, health status certificates, quarantine requirements, and unexpected cancellations are expected to last for the remainder of 2020 and perhaps into 2021. And if an illness, or even a high temperature reading, can force you into a 14-day quarantine (imposed either by your host country or your own government) consider the cost. To date, most governments (Canada’s included) have strongly urged travellers leaving their country to get the best medical and trip cancellation/interruption insurance possible. Their travel advisory websites have gone to great lengths describing the types of insurance available and the situations that can trigger the need for cover. The need for this was clearly illustrated when the Canadian government sent chartered airliners across the Pacific…

Are Snowbirds Ready to Plan for Life After Covid?

Any other year, Canadian snowbirds would be anticipating the release of early-bird travel insurance deals for the coming winter season in the US sunbelt or other warm subtropical location. June, July, August—that’s when insurers normally begin rolling out their products for the coming season. But this is not just any other year. The attack of Covid-19 coronavirus has seen to that. As we know, many of you got back north of the border by the skin of your teeth in late March and April before the border shut down. A few others didn’t quite make it and had to pay the price of quarantine. And now the quandary: what to do about winter 20/21? A lot of questions to deal with. When will the US/Canada border restrictions end? Will you feel safe travelling to your winter home? Will you have to wear a face mask all winter? How do you…

Time to Think About Travel Strategies—After Covid-19

That Air Canada expects the pandemic hangover to last at least three years, exposing the airline industry to endure its “darkest period ever,” portends deep instability for all aspiring travellers for the foreseeable future. Canadians and Americans have a lot of places to go and activities to enjoy within a day’s drive—anticipating that the border shutdown between our countries doesn’t last indefinitely. But without the sustenance of air travellers, the tourism infrastructure—hotels, entertainment venues, theme parks, all-inclusive resorts, and mom and pop roadside operations, can’t operate at full capacity and with complete menus for long. A winnowing of destination choices and services becomes inevitable. As Air Canada Chief Executive Calin Rovinescu said in a statement dated May 4, “We expect that both the overall industry and our airlines will be considerably smaller for some time, which will unfortunately result in significant reductions in both fleet and employee levels.” What you…

Cruise Bargains Sound Tempting. Can You Afford to Bite?

Despite the lingering images of cruise ships stranded at sea with passengers begging to be freed, the world’s cruise lines continue to drum up business for 2021 and even 2022. And bookings are said to be brisk–thanks to deep price-cuts and on-board cash value incentives. When US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifts its “No Sail” order depends on when it considers the COVID-19 plague under control. And though cruising is a worldwide industry extending far beyond US ports, the world’s three biggest lines*are headquartered in Florida, and their vessels at some time or other sail in US-controlled waters patrolled by the US Coast Guard. Thus, CDC jurisdiction is quite clear. (*Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Holdings account for 60 percent of all cruise traffic). However, none of these lines, and very few others, are flagged in the US, thus they have not been included in…

Is Coming Back to Normal, Good Enough?

It may be too early to think about getting back to “normal” once the threat, and the carnage, of COVID recedes. It could be that what was once normal just isn’t realistic anymore. In Europe, border-free travel between neighbouring states is no longer a given. We have seen how quickly self-preservation can overrule an ideological imperative. In North America, the unthinkable action of shutting down the “world’s longest undefended border” has actually happened—even though commerce continued and most “trapped” travellers eventually found their way home. But just the fact that it could be shut down came as a stunning shock of millions on either side of the so called 49th parallel who had come think that “crossing over” for a few days or half a year was a basic human “right.” It isn’t. It never has been. It’s a privilege. And it can be withdrawn if push comes to shove…quickly. Reality can be stark. How are these new “realities” going to colour our perspectives as…

Time for Canadians to Take up Trip Cancellation Coverage

It may be some time before tourism gets back to normal, but one thing the COVID pandemic should have taught Canadians is that they should be paying just as much attention to trip cancellation/interruption insurance as they do to out-of-country medical emergency coverage. The recent example of cruise ships being forced to cancel or divert trips for which their passengers have already prepaid several thousand dollars emphasizes that travelers could be at significant financial risk very quickly through no fault of their own. And though cruise companies have responded with pledges of refunds for interrupted or aborted voyages, those refunds usually take the form of credits for future cruises—not cash. Such credits don’t always confirm vacationers’ schedules or their changing attitudes about the cruise experience. A 2019 survey by travel insurance vendor Kanetix revealed that 65 percent of prospective Canadian travelers do not buy travel insurance or even know if they have cancellation or interruption benefits in their policies—which in Canada are heavily skewed to medical emergency coverage. …

Stay in Place. Follow Official Guidance. This will End.

By now, all Canadians who have been abroad should either be at home or in the final process of getting there. The coronavirus COVID-19 has changed our lives, and perhaps, when we come out at the other end of this trial, we’ll all be better off for it. We’ll be better prepared to deal with any such disruption in future, more cognizant of how vulnerable we really are when we travel to environments not our own. For now, travel is not in our immediate future. For Canadians, some of the most inveterate travellers on earth, that may seem like a forbidding challenge. But this too will pass and when it does we may view travel as more of a privilege than a human right and we’ll be more careful about our choices, our preparations, our own untidiness when it comes to making plans, our own consideration for the others we…

Cruise Lines Roll Out Deep Bargains During Virus Threats… Interested?

Cruise lines are now offering deals you wouldn’t have believed possible even a couple of weeks ago—obviously not to China or other western Pacific regions, but anywhere else—to the Caribbean (which normally attracts 32 percent of the world’s cruise traffic), to Mediterranean waters (forget Italy), Alaska and the rest of the world. They have suffered severe business losses since the COVID epidemic spread, and they intend to stay afloat during the current tempest. It’s a buyers’ market, for either short or long term bookings. Should You buy? That’s your personal decision and your willingness to take on risk. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, and consultant to the White House COVID response team, has advised that anybody with a serious underlying condition, and especially persons over 60 with serious conditions “should not get near a cruise ship.” Canada’s PHAC has gone one…

Coronavirus Advisory for Italy and Neighbouring Countries

February 25, 2020: Travellers planning trips anywhere to Europe in the near future need to stay tuned  to government and media alerts now that COVID-19 has seriously impacted Italy and begun its spread to neighbouring countries. As of this date, more than 200 Italians have been confirmed positive for the virus and seven have died—the heaviest toll of any country in Europe. Though most of the cases reported to date have been clustered in northern Italy, a late report has just been received of a positive confirmation of coronavirus in Sicily, southernmost Italy. And according to Germany’s DW (Deutsche Welle) News service, Austria has confirmed its first two cases of the coronavirus—detected in two Italians living in the Tyrol region who were likely infected on a recent trip to Lombardy (encompassing Milan) in northern Italy. Croatia has also reported its first confirmed case in a young man who returned from…

Cruise Lines Issue Advisory on Booking Future Travel in Response to Fears around COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 has spread far beyond China and has affected cruise ship operations not only in the Pacific but worldwide. A recent poll by Travel Weekly, a US-based trade publication, reports that 43.6 per cent of traveller-respondents expressed concern about booking a cruise anywhere. In response to such fears, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the Florida-based trade group representing the world’s global cruise industry, has issued a statement (which follows in full) outlining what cruise line operators are doing worldwide to prevent COVID-19 from being transmitted to their passengers now and in the immediate future. At this point we also advise that, though standard trip-cancellation/interruption travel insurance policies can protect you in case you are forced to cancel a cruise booking for reasons of illness or other unexpected emergencies (as defined in your policy), cancelling your booking for fear or concern that something untoward might happen is…

How Powerful Is Your Passport? US and Canada Near the Top

If you consider yourself a traveller (or if you would like to be one) and you still don’t have a passport, shame on you—you’re in the distinct minority and your chances of seeing much of the world beyond your borders gets slimmer by the year. As of the end of 2019, over 44 per cent of Americans had passports—low by international standards—but over 66 per cent of Canadians had them. (In 2007, only 27 per cent of Americans had passports, but with the imposition of tougher Homeland Security rules for international travel, and a requirement that by October 2020, Americans will need a real government-approved document to board even domestic flights, the call for passports has quickened sharply.) According to the Henley Passport Index,* the world’s most “powerful” passport as of January 2020 was the Japanese, which allows access to 191 countries without a prior visa, with an electronic visa,…

Caribbean Bound? Do Your Homework. Don’t Get Burned

If you’re planning a trip to the Caribbean in what remains of this winter, you should have no difficulty finding your choice of location at prices comparable to last year. There’s plenty of room at the inn. But if your travel choice is one of the Big Three destinations below—which account for three-quarters of Canadian vacation trips to the Caribbean overall—you still need to do your due diligence on the state of your chosen resorts to make sure the standards are what you expect, and you need to remain increasingly vigilant about your personal safety and security. For specific warnings, check out Travel Canada’s advisory service links for each country. Mexico According to STR—the hotel data collection company—revenues per available room, average daily room rates, and occupancy rates have all fallen, with the Yucatan Peninsula (which encompasses Cancun and Cozumel) being the most heavily hit area. Yucatan has also been…

Coronavirus Impacts Travel Insurance Coverage: Stay Protected

With commercial airline traffic to and from China virtually shut down, and with little prospect that control of the coronavirus is imminent, travellers need to do a quick study of what travel insurance can or cannot do in protecting them from unexpected costs of emergency medical care, trip cancellations, disruptions, re-routings or possibly even temporary isolation far from home. To help with that study, we have asked Matt Davies, Senior Product Specialist with MSH International to help us navigate through the finer points of travel insurance benefits and limitations as they are provided to Canadian travellers planning visits to countries impacted by the coronavirus epidemic. One important point to emphasize is that these guidelines or limitations are largely dependent on government assessments of health or other risks in foreign countries and are not just arbitrary rulings set out by insurers. The before or after rule Generally, if you purchase insurance for…

Protect Your International Visitors: Canada’s “Free” Health Care Isn’t Free

If you’re one of the many Canadians who considers your health care “free,” it is so only in that you don’t have to pay for medical or hospital services at the time when you are treated. But pay for it you certainly do, every time you buy a car or a pair of socks, go to a ballgame, or pay for virtually any transaction that is taxable. In fact, about 40 per cent of most provincial budgets are eaten up by health costs, and according to the most recent data available from the Canadian Institute for Healthcare Information, total health costs in Canada are expected to reach $7,068 per person in 2019 once all the data are tallied. That’s one of the highest costs for health care in the world—except for the US. And that is something to consider, seriously, when inviting relatives or friends from other nations to visit…

Canadians Are Accustomed to “Free Trade” in Travel

With the US/Mexico/Canada (USMCA) free trade agreement settled, now might be a good time to reassess the non-political dynamics that keep our countries emotionally as well as economically linked through travel. In 2018, Canadians made more than 33 million trips of a least one overnight stay to the US: more than 2 per cent higher than the previous year. That’s getting very close to averaging one trip for every person living in Canada, and almost 25 million of those trips were for leisure purposes—tourism, visits with family, shopping, sunning, beaching, golf, watching sports events, you name it. That’s as close to being “free trade” in travel as you can get. And according to the Conference Board of Canada, there seems to be only one variable influencing that trend: the relative value of the Canadian dollar. But as Canada’s tough, resilient snowbirds have proven over the years, even a droopy loonie…

As of Jan. 1, changes to OHIP’s out-of-country health insurance are now in effect

We’ve been warning you since mid-summer that Ontario would be cutting its share of health costs for out-of-country travel to zero. At first, the cutoff date was set for October 1, 2019, then it was moved to January 1, 2020. And that’s where it stands. As of New Year’s Day, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan will no longer cover any part of your out-of-country emergency medical costs. This is the first province in Canada to arbitrarily carve that particular benefit out of the Canada Heath Act, purportedly saving $2.9 million to administer some $9 million in emergency health fees paid to foreign hospitals and doctors. Will other provinces follow Ontario’s lead? Who knows? We’ll tell you if it happens. Though OHIP traditionally paid only about 5 per cent of actual charges billed by foreign hospitals and doctors (the rest being paid by Canada’s private travel insurers, or by the patients…

In a High-Risk World, Do Travel Insurers and Agents Have a Duty to Advise?

Increasingly, media have been reporting on travel trouble spots around the globe, emphasizing that bad things can happen in even the nicest places. What, then, can vacationers or business travellers expect their agents or insurers to tell them about the destinations they’ve chosen? What if they just discovered that there have been unexplained deaths at a resort where they booked a stay (as occurred this past summer in the Dominican Republic), and when they tried to cancel, the resort refused to return their deposits? Or what if they suddenly found themselves in the middle of an anti-government demonstration in Chile and were injured and needed hospital care, but their insurer denied their claims because they had been warned against involvement in demonstrations by their government? Who do they go to? Why didn’t their travel agent, or travel insurance brokers, tell them these were potential trouble spots? After all, didn’t they…

Travelling to South America? Heed the Warnings

Though much of the world’s media is focused on riots in Hong Kong and the Middle East, business, leisure, and adventure travellers need to stay on high alert in the face of rampaging civil disturbances, government upheavals, and outbreaks of crime throughout South America. Just in recent months, riot police throughout Ecuador were struggling to hold back protestors furious about fuel price increases many just couldn’t afford, and the protests grew so violent that government officials deserted the capital city, Quito. In Chile, violence and looting repeatedly broke out in protest against severe public transportation price hikes, forcing the government to declare states of emergency in and around the capital city of Santiago. In Peru, the president was forced to dissolve Congress amid repeated charges of flagrant corruption as angry crowds took to the streets. The past four presidents have all been charged with corruption and all have denied the…