Know Before You Go: Staying Safe and Healthy While Travelling

It's that time of year when many of us start planning our winter escape to warmer destinations, whether for an all-inclusive week somewhere south or an adventurous family vacation in a sunnier nation! While planning is an interesting part of the whole travel process, it's not always easy to choose the best and safest places to visit. Are you hesitating between two contenders? Wondering if Zika or other health issues are of concern on the island you dream of seeing? Uncertain if you need a visa to fly into a specific country? When searching for the perfect haven, choosing wisely and staying up to date on the territory's present situation is crucial, as it may impact your safety, your health or even your travel insurance!

Where Is the Information Available?

The Government of Canada’s travel advisory website offers a wide array of tips and topics as well as more formal advice and warnings.

For each of the world’s countries, you’ll be able to view risk levels, safety and security concerns, entry and exit requirements, health recommendations, information on local laws and culture, updates on natural disasters and climate as well as the contact information for assistance should you need it once you’ve landed.

What Are Risk Levels?

Risk levels are the Canadian government’s overall assessment of the security and safety of the country (or region within the country) for travellers. There are four main levels that you should pay close attention to, especially since it may affect your travel insurance coverage. Each nation will receive one of these classifications:

  • Exercise normal security precautions
  • Exercise a high degree of caution
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Avoid all travel

What destinations should you refrain from travelling to? The answer varies. The advisories are constantly updated as events happen (like earthquakes and hurricanes) and the most recent changes are shared so you can keep an eye out for any variations at your coveted winter getaway spot. The government recommends checking the advisories twice: once when planning your trip, and again, shortly before you embark on your travels.

Travel Safe, Travel Healthy

The good news is that at the time of this article, there are no nationwide “avoid travel” advisories for the top winter destinations favoured by Canadians; there are however, some regional advisories, which is useful information when creating your itinerary (ex. Mexico and Colombia). Others destinations, like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Nicaragua or Costa Rica, may pose a health risk because of the Zika virus, but tourist zones remain popular.

How Does the Government’s Risk Level Affect Your Travel Insurance

Fortunately, most sunny destinations on the radar of Canadians for a winter getaway are designated as requiring a normal or high degree of caution; both designations are common and typically will not affect your travel insurance coverage (although it’s always best to check your policy wording to be sure). These designations are fluid however, and can change at any time.

Travel Safe, Travel Healthy

Indeed, when Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada issues a statement recommending circumvention of non-essential or all travel prior to your departure, you may be on your own—and without coverage—should you decide to proceed with your holiday despite the travel warning.

Travel medical insurance is intended to offer you protection for unexpected and unforeseen events. If you choose to ignore a travel warning then it could be viewed that you're expecting the unexpected and depending on the policy, you may not be covered. The best tip is always to read the fine print and, when in doubt, contact your travel insurer to make sure you’re fully covered and your travel plans won’t be disturbed.

With the help of Canada’s helpful planning tool, you’ll be able to take certain precautions to protect yourself, your health and your valuables, thus enjoying your adventure to the fullest and remaining certain that you are protected should anything happen!

Photo credits: Jennifer Doré Dallas