Travel Health Insurance

Make sure you have adequate health and medical insurance coverage during your time abroad. This is not only a requirement for your participation in any University-sponsored activity but also gives you (and your family!) peace of mind while travelling the world. SAO does not recommend any particular Travel Medical Insurance company. We strongly urge you to review your policy carefully.


Travel insurance Begin with considering the basics
Accessing insurance Know in advance how to access your insurance while abroad
OHIP extension If you have a valid Ontario Health Card, you are entitled to certain benefits when you are outside of Canada
Student coverage Your student union may provide supplementary health coverage

Travel insurance

Know your destination

To make an informed decision about your health insurance needs, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the health care facilities, costs and potential health risks of your destination. Having sufficient, easy to use insurance is essential. Check to see if your provider has supports in place in the country that you are visiting. Hospitals and health care workers in many countries may refuse to provide medical care without sufficient funds or proof of funds available. Is your provider able to quickly provide proof of coverage?  Health care can be very expensive! A small injury in the United States, as an example, can result in significant hospital bills for which you will be responsible.

Additional insurance may be required for high risk destinations. For example, it may be necessary to obtain coverage for hostage taking, acts of war or terrorism. Contact SAO for more information.

Extend your coverage

Canadian supplementary health insurance plans require that you be covered by a provincial government health plan (such as OHIP) or the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) as a basic or primary plan. You should consult with your primary insurance provider and make arrangements to ensure that coverage is extended while you are overseas.

Accessing your insurance while abroad

For the plan(s) you select, it is important that you know in advance how to access your insurance if a medical emergency arises. Review it carefully and consider the following:

  • How does the coverage compare to others?  Does the coverage amount seem appropriate for the location you are traveling to? (e.g., health care can be particularly costly in the USA. )
  • What is the process for enrolling in the plan?
  • Can you extend the coverage should you choose to travel longer? Can this be done abroad?
  • Does it cover you for all of your planned activities?  Are there special risks that you need to consider (e.g., natural disasters) that may be excluded?
  • If you find it necessary to use your insurance, what do you show as proof of worldwide coverage?
  • If you obtain medical assistance while abroad, when and how should you inform the insurance agency?
  • If you need to pay up front (some locations will require this), what will you do?
  • What documentation of expenses is required? (Most companies will accept only original documents, not copies or faxes). Does the bill need to be in English and the amount of the charges in Canadian dollars?
  • Do you require additional insurance for belongings? Cancelation or interruption insurance?

Understand your policy, know how your insurer’s system works and how bills are reimbursed. Carry details of your insurance with you. Tell a friend or relative at home, as well as a travelling companion, about how to contact your insurer.

OHIP extension

If you have a valid Ontario Health Card, you are entitled to certain benefits when you are outside of Canada. While abroad, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers only emergency health services. The amount paid by OHIP is very limited and may not be enough to cover the whole cost of the services provided to you. OHIP will pay for health services outside of Canada only if the patient gets written authorization from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care before the treatment is given.

To ensure that you are eligible for continuous OHIP coverage during an extended absence (212 days or more within a 365 day period) for study, work, missionary work, vacation or another reason, you will need to submit an application to OHIP prior to your departure. Please contact your local OHIP office for more details.

Student Union coverage

As an undergraduate student, you may already be covered for 60 days international travel through the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU). Contact UTSU to confirm that you are covered, as you may have opted out.

As a graduate student, you may already be covered for 120 days of international travel through UTGSU. Contact UTGSU to confirm that you are covered, as you may have opted out.

Please note that it is important to review this coverage carefully to ensure that it is suitable for your travel activity.

The Department of Foreign Affairs offers excellent Travel Reports. The Centre for Infectious Disease also provides an excellent resource for travellers going overseas.