Travel

Planning to Study Abroad in Canada? Here’s What You Need to Know about Health Coverage

Because I have a 15-year-old grandson who is intent on studying medicine, I have been paying very close attention to the growing tidal wave of international students applying to Canada’s universities. I should explain that although Zachary lives in the United States, he is a dual Canadian/US citizen, and would therefore have a clearer road to enrollment at, say, the University of Toronto or McMaster than would a student with no Canadian connection who would have to navigate the various visa requirements.  I am also very aware that Canadian medical schools are a lot cheaper than comparable-quality US schools. What my research has also turned up is that as of the last census taken by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, in 2015 there were more than 350,000 international full-time students enrolled in Canadian colleges—that is almost 100,000 more than five years earlier—and is getting very close to the 450,000…

Canadian Outbound Travel Forecasts and Safety Advice for 2018

With consumer confidence the highest it’s been in four years, and with overall travel numbers for the first eight months of 2017 up 5.3 percent over the same period in 2016 (23.1 million trips—not counting single-day, cross-border travel), it appears that Canadians will be taking to the roads, skies, and seas in near-record numbers in 2018.1 That’s a good thing. But with increasing options to visit farther-flung locations coming available, you will also have to become astute navigators and travel planners. What may be a prime vacation or tour destination one day can generate warning signals overnight that need to be spotted, heeded, and avoided. Fortunately, with phone and online access to government travel advisories instantly available, there is no reason for you to be short of current information when either planning or embarking on any trip to any location—and you should take no location’s safety for granted. For example,…

Canada’s Dual Citizens: Many “Pros,” But a Few Cautions

As Canada becomes more culturally diversified (almost one million Canadian citizens are also citizens of other countries), international travel requires increasing care and attention to detail. For example, in 2016, the Canadian government imposed a rule requiring all Canadian citizens who were also citizens of other countries to have Canadian passports when entering by air. (Canadian/US “duals” were exempted). The rule ruffled a few feathers, particularly among Canadians who had been living abroad for many years and had to scurry about trying to get passports just so they could visit family and friends “back home.” In addition, Canada is one of the most welcoming nations for citizens of other countries who wish to be permanent residents—which means, if they are successful in obtaining PR status, they have virtually all of the rights and responsibilities of citizens, except the right to vote, or run for elected office. But they are also…

Partner with Your Doctor when Applying for Travel Insurance

Among the most frequent stories I hear from Canadians who have had their travel insurance claim denied are: “My doctor never told me I had a heart murmur” or “he didn’t say that heart pill was for atrial fibrillation” or “my CT scan didn’t show anything abnormal”—so why would they have reported any of this on their application? Why? Because it’s up to you to know what’s in your medical record when filling out an insurance application—and if your claim is denied for non-disclosure or because you had a pre-existing condition that wasn’t “stable,” you are the one who will have to pay the bill. And no matter how strongly your family doctor protests your denial in a letter after the fact, you are still responsible for providing accurate and up-to-date information to the insurer. The decision to pay your claim or deny it will be made on the basis…

Visitors to Canada Travel Protection: Know Your Options (Part 2)

In the Part 1 of this series, I discussed the importance of Visitors to Canada plans. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the details your visitors will need to consider when purchasing their insurance. Visitors to Canada travel protection plans come in various shapes and sizes. These are not “one size fits all” products. The first rule is to buy travel insurance before your visitors leave home—to become effective when they first set foot in Canada. If you or your visitors buy insurance after they arrive, they will be subject to a waiting period—two, three, or even five days—before coverage for any sickness becomes effective. (Coverage for accidents is effective immediately.) In most cases, if you’re buying or ordering a plan for a parent or relative who will be staying with you for a short time, a single-trip policy is best. But be careful if…

Expecting Visitors to Canada? Protect Them and Yourselves with Health Insurance (Part 1)

One of the most baffling myths passed on about Canadian health care is that it’s free. Far from it: you pay for it very handsomely in your taxes every time you buy gas, a pair of shoes, or a case of beer. In fact, you pay some of the highest costs for health care in the industrialized world, even though you pay nothing when you visit your doctor or a hospital for routine or emergency care. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that same “generosity” will be extended to a friend or relative from another country visiting you over the coming holidays. Let’s face it: hospitals are not the charitable institutions they once were. They may be funded by their provincial governments, but only for care of their residents.  All others pay cash—or, if they’re from another province, by funds transferred out of their own provincial treasuries. Ice…

Is Virtual Reality the Future of Cruising?

It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of taking a cruise was linked in one’s mind with leisure: “getting away from it all,” sipping cool drinks in deck chairs, and watching tropical sunsets. No longer. As cruise vessels get bigger and bigger (5,000 passengers is now routine) and the focus of activities turn ever inward—to what the ship has to offer rather than what the itinerary and ports of call provide—you’re going to need a lot of experience with technology to get the most out of your cruise. I’m talking about smartphones, apps, virtual reality headsets, and so on. Better bring your grandkids along. Recently, Royal Caribbean Cruises previewed some of the super-high-tech plans it has for “enhancing” the cruise experience of the future, and it’s about as far away as you can get from the “romance” of the old tramp steamer sailing on the high tide for Trinidad…

More on the Wretched 30-Day US Cross-Border Rule

Of all questions that come across my desk from confused readers, the one most difficult to explain, or justify, concerns the US immigration rule that requires vacationing Canadians to count side trips of 30 days or less, be they back home or to Mexico, as part of their allotted 180-day stay in the US. If those trips are over 30 days, they are not added to the 180-day tally, and the return to the US is counted as a separate trip. This becomes more confusing if our Canadian visitors  become entangled in the seemingly contradictory rules governing the B2 visa (which allows most Canadians to stay in the US for up to 180 days per 12 months), and their obligation to file IRS forms (8840) if they spend large chunks of time in the US each year. Different purposes. Different rules. Let’s sort it out—The easiest first Under the…

2018 Travel Tips for Cuba and Mexico—What Happens Now?

Cuba and Mexico, hit by severe natural disasters this fall, would ordinarily welcome more than 2.5 million Canadians between them this coming year, most during the first four months of 2018. But tourism services in both countries—Cuba battered by Hurricane Irma, and Mexico by two massive earthquakes—are on edge, wondering if the anticipated flow of foreign visitors will dry up given the images of mass destruction that were transmitted out of their countries in September. Let’s take them one at a time. Cuba Despite the dramatic pictures of gigantic surf breaking over Havana’s Malecón (the iconic waterfront esplanade), and the flooding along the entire north shore of this tourism-dependent country, most hotels, restaurants, rum and cigar factories, and historic sites are expected to be fully operational and ready for the winter season beginning in December. Though news of Irma forced a spate of hotel cancellations for early 2018, the…

Can an American Hospital Sue a Canadian Patient?

The hospital bill for an emergency appendectomy in St. Petersburg, Florida, arrives at your home in Canada shortly after you return from your vacation: four days, $80,000 USD. Please Pay Now. What do you do? If you had travel insurance, that likely would not happen—although there are exceptions. But if you had no travel insurance, you have to deal with it. This is not a situation you can ignore. You don’t want the hospital to bounce the bill over to an international collection agency—that happens a lot, and it can make your life anywhere from uncomfortable to miserable. Increasingly, U.S. hospitals are diverting all bills for non-US residents to a growing throng of international companies who specialize in cross-border collections so they—the hospitals—don’t have to deal with the complexities of foreign collections, or travel to your province to sue you. But you are not defenseless. Hospitals don’t like to sue…

Florida’s Keys Invite Visitors Back in the Wake of Hurricane Irma

Hardly had the uprooted palms, shattered roofs, overturned mobile homes, and even stranded fishing boats been cleared off the Overseas Highway connecting the Florida Keys to each other and the mainland, and tourism officials were already planning their strategy to bring visitors, foreign and domestic, back to this southern part of Florida—battered by the vicious winds of hurricane Irma in September. For an area where 60 percent of all spending and 54 percent of all jobs are dependent on tourism (a $2.7 billion industry in these parts), bringing visitors back for the 2018 winter season is a challenge that can’t afford to be leisurely or timid. And for Florida’s Canadian visitors, enjoying an 80 cent loonie, this combination of events might mean some truly meaningful bargains for snowbird, Christmas, or spring break visits. Don’t settle for rack rates—they need you back to show they’re still in business. So how do…

Travel Insurance for Snowbird Season, Part 2: What Should You Look For When Shopping For Travel Insurance?

Early bird specials These are plans sold at cheaper summer rates prior to new price increases going into effect. They can allow you some substantial savings, but remember that if your health changes in any way after you buy your plan and before your leave on your trip (e.g., new symptoms, changes in medications, referrals for tests or consultations), you must tell your insurer so your conditions of coverage and/or premium rates can be adjusted. Your coverage contract is based on your health status on the date your coverage comes into effect –not the date you purchased it. Failure to report such changes can invalidate your coverage.   Multi-trip annual plans If your travel plans call for frequent, short-term trips rather than a single extended six-month sojourn, consider an annual multi-trip plan, the fastest growing travel insurance varietal in the marketplace. Multi-trip plans are convenient in that you apply only…