Canada travel health insurance and visa guide
January 04, 2019
Northern exposures: Top tips and best places to visit in Canada
With the planet’s longest coastline (151,000 miles, to be exact1) and a wide range of natural beauty and remarkably unique cities, Canada offers an experience as broad as its 3.8+ million square miles area.1 Ten provinces and three territories extend from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans, each filled with its own amazing destinations for world travelers. Whether you’re looking for a remote wilderness escape or want a sophisticated metropolitan experience — or maybe both — Canada travel puts it all within easy reach. And be sure to have a plan B for your trip with SafeTrip travel protection, just in case any hitches arise along the way.
Before you go
Travel in Canada is similar to travel in the United States in terms of process and language, but here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Required travel documents are a valid passport (and visa or an electronic Travel Authorization if required from your country of origin).
- Canada is a bilingual country with English and French both recognized as official languages
- English is the main language, but signs are often bilingual, with the metric system used for distance and speed limit signs and gasoline priced by the liter.
- Business attire is expected for meetings and presentations. In certain provinces, particularly Quebec, business is mainly conducted in French.
Safety and Security
The overall crime rate in Canada is low, but incidents of crime do occur. Protests and demonstrations over a range of issues periodically occur in urban areas but do not usually result in violence. The threat of transnational terrorism is a concern in major Canadian cities, where small-scale attacks have occurred in recent years. Eco-terrorist groups have a presence in the country, especially in the western provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. Natural disasters, including wildfires and floods, also pose a concern in Canada.
Health care in Canada
While there is a good quality of care provided by public and private providers throughout Canada, access to care is more limited in remote and rural areas including national parks. Generally, no vaccinations are required on arrival. However, to find recommended and required vaccines as well as preventative treatments for travel to Canada, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
- The emergency number for medical emergencies, Fire and Police is 911.
- Health care professionals speak English, except for some in areas of Québec who may also speak French.
- Because most doctors are paid by the government, travelers and foreign visitors may encounter problems finding a provider who will accept payment with cash or credit cards, although all hospitals and walk-in clinics will. Therefore, it is very important that travelers have insurance against potential medical expenses. There is no free treatment for non-residents, and in some parts of the country, hospitals and providers add a surcharge to treatment given to non-residents. Hospitals and health care providers may require a guarantee of payment before medical services are performed, except of course for urgent life-saving care. SafeTrip can help coordinate the guarantee of payment by calling the number on the ID card.
- It is not necessary to be evacuated outside of the country on medical grounds.
Because of the occasional unpredictability in travel today, it is wise to purchase international travel medical insurance and protection* before your trip to Canada. Whether you experience a medical need or an itinerary change due to cancellations or health needs, this coverage and support can connect you with resources, backup and information to manage any surprises. UnitedHealthcare Global SafeTrip offers a range of coverage for any type of trip, from International Travel Medical Plus plan protection in case of needing to cancel or delay a trip due to health issues, to International Travel Medical coverage that will take care of an accident or unexpected illness that requires medical assistance.
The best destinations in Canada
With such a breadth of space, creating an itinerary across Canada can be intimidating. Start by checking out our quick look at different destinations across the country and research some good-to-know tips:
From province to province
A commitment to indigenous rights balanced with historic preservation makes Canada’s provinces particularly fascinating for world travelers. For instance, in British Columbia, the traditional territories of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people can be explored both through the cities that are sited on these ancestral lands, as well as venturing into the province’s more removed regions. Québec’s cities (the largest being Montreal and Québec City) are filled with Francophone culture, generations removed from settlers who arrived in the 1500s–1700s, with visitors often getting a sense of a European getaway. Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia tourism companies offer oceanside adventures, Alberta is home to more than 500 lakes2 for fishing, boating and more, and Ontario where you’ll find Toronto, one of the most multiculturally diverse cities in the world.
From city to city
Are you a fan of stunning modern architecture? Vancouver is for you. Love tiny European-style cobblestone streets? Québec City awaits. Are you a sports fan? Toronto has seven major-league sports teams. Can’t imagine a trip without nightlife and festivals? Montreal hosts almost 90 festivals a year, from film to comedy to jazz and more. Whatever fills your head, heart and social feed, you’ll see it at one of Canada’s city destinations.
From national parks to natural wonders
Nearly everyone has heard of the stunning Niagara Falls and the intensely blue lakes and high peaks of Banff National Park. But Canada has a lesser-known but still remarkable range of landscapes within its borders, including pristine preserves that include Arctic, desert and rainforest biomes. Visitors often traverse to Churchill, Manitoba, to experience the Aurora Borealis — as well as to check out the local polar bear population. In the autumn, those in the know head to Nova Scotia to tour the Cabot Trail of Cape Breton, where a glorious palette of fall colors signals the change of season. Less well known is the Great Bear Rainforest as well as the Okanagan Desert, with each located at opposite ends of British Columbia.
From mountain pinnacles to splashy beaches
Casual hikers and hard-core climbers alike rave about the Canadian Rockies as picture-perfect getaways. The Bruce Trail in Ontario is the longest and oldest marked hiking trail in the country, and can be tackled in short distances for the beginner or as a multi-night camping adventure for experienced outdoors people. If you want to get all the views in a more relaxing way, plan a Canadian Rockies train trip.
The spectacular lakes of Canada offer a wide range of outdoor enjoyment as well, from the family-friendly beaches of Ontario and Prince Edward Island to the fishing of Campbell River, Tree River, and the Queen Charlotte Islands (to name only three of thousands of angler destinations). In addition, Canada’s rivers, lakes and ocean coasts mean every sort of water fun — boating, surfing, pebble-skimming — can be added to your itinerary, no matter where in the country you are headed.
*Policy availability varies
1: Destination Canada, Canada in Brief.
Note: other sources had the smaller number for coastline, but I opted to simplify with just this one source for both stats.
2: Know Alberta, How Many Lakes in Alberta?