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What you should know and expect when travelling outside Canada
September 1, 2023
For plan members, sponsors and administrators
You’re looking forward to an exciting and happy vacation. But, when travelling abroad, unexpected events can happen. Everything from extreme weather and political unrest to contagious diseases can affect your trip. If you’re thinking about booking travel, it’s important to be prepared. Do your research, plan ahead, and learn as much as you can about your destination. Check the Government of Canada travel advice and advisories while planning. Then, check again just before you leave.
COVID-19 changed the nature of travel and vacationing. Plan carefully and know what to do if you experience an emergency. As long as COVID-19 presents a health risk, travelling between regions is going to be more complicated and a riskier undertaking.
We want to help make sure you have a safe and happy trip, so we have some tips to share – especially if you are travelling outside of Canada.
Before you travel
Special considerations when travelling in the era of COVID
It’s still important to keep up to date on the COVID-19 situation at home and at your destination. The spread of COVID-19 seems to rise, fall, and rise again. Areas that appear to be stable can experience unexpected spikes in the number of cases being reported. Entry and exit requirements can change quickly. Be aware of this and regularly check the Government of Canada travel advice and advisories.
If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, stay home.
COVID-19 vaccination status is not a factor in determining eligibility for benefits; however, a person’s vaccination status may affect how easily they travel between countries.
If you have Trip Cancellation* coverage, for most plans, COVID-19 is deemed a known event.
This means, Trip Cancellation claims will not be paid if the government issues another COVID-19 travel advisory for your destination (after the date you purchased your trip and before your departure date).
Regardless of when your trip was purchased, you will be eligible under your Group Trip Cancellation benefit if you are diagnosed with COVID‑19 (or for any other covered reasons/events) before your departure date and you need to cancel your trip as a result.
*Travel insurance does not cover everything. All claims will be reviewed on an individual basis, and will remain subject to the terms, conditions, and exclusions of the policy. For complete terms, conditions, limitations, and exclusions, please refer to the policy.
Prepare for your trip
1. The Travel Assistance phone numbers are located on your benefits card, including the toll-free number. Additional instructions for dialing from popular destinations are located at the bottom of this page. If you are unsure how to contact us from the destination you are travelling to, you’ll find helpful hints and resources on this webpage (below). Keep the number with you while travelling.
In case of an emergency, know how to make local calls and calls back to Canada while travelling internationally (use a landline when possible). It might be helpful to contact your mobile phone provider for details and tips for use while travelling.
2. Download the GEM TravelAID app for iPhone and Android. (GEM is Manulife’s Emergency Travel Assistance provider.)
- A direct link for immediate medical assistance 24 hours a day/7 days a week
- Start a claim – Begin the claim process
- Travel Tips – for travelling Canadians and visitors to Canada
- Find a doctor (GPS enabled)
- International 911 lookup – Search for emergency phone numbers in other countries
3. If you need to carry proof of coverage, contact Manulife’s Customer Service Centre using the number on your benefits card. We’ll send you a letter or email to confirm that you have out-of-country travel health insurance through your group benefits plan. Carry this letter and your benefits card with you when travelling.
4. Find out as much as you can about the places you’re travelling to.
Be aware of any:
- Health risks, e.g., COVID-19 outbreak
- Entry requirements. e.g., vaccine, quarantine, COVID-19 test
- Weather warnings, e.g., hurricanes
- Political or civil unrest, e.g., acts of terrorism
- Any other recent or anticipated event that might affect your travel to and from the area, or your health and safety during your stay.
Note: It’s highly recommended that you check travel advisories for the countries you will be visiting. Do this before you book your trip and before you travel.
Remember, if you have Trip Cancellation benefits (check your benefits booklet to confirm), COVID-19 travel-related advisories are not a covered reason because COVID-19 has been deemed a “known event.”
5. Visit these websites:
- Foreign Affairs and International Trade
- Transport Canada
- Government of Canada interactive data visualizations of COVID-19
For information on:
- Local currency/exchange rates
- Visa requirements
- Health risks, etc.
- Requirements to provide proof of out-of-country travel health insurance.
6. Travel insurance doesn’t cover everything. Be sure to read and understand your benefits plan and what it does and does not cover. Pay special attention to exclusions and limitations and anything not covered in various situations1.
Note: It’s particularly important to understand the benefits of Emergency Travel Assistance – what you need to do and who to call if you need medical aid while travelling abroad.
7. Ensure you have enough of your medications and carry each in its original packaging. Leave any cannabis products at home because countries outside of Canada have different laws concerning cannabis use.
While you’re travelling
Special considerations when travelling in the era of COVID:
Each country or region continues to deal with COVID-19 in its own way. Furthermore, medical resources (hospitals, doctors) might still be stretched. This means it can be much more difficult to receive travel assistance if you experience any kind of emergency (COVID-19 related or otherwise), and there could be lengthy delays bringing a patient home. This is further complicated due to the health care system pressures being felt in many parts of Canada. Medical staff shortages, emergency room backlogs or closures, and other strains on the system could cause delays and difficulties bringing a patient home.
What to do if you require medical attention
If you require medical care while travelling, it is critical that you contact us before seeking treatment. Our caring and experienced in-house medical team is ready to help you 24/7. Emergency Assistance Specialists will guide you to the most optimal healthcare solution based on your condition and location, arrange payment on your behalf whenever possible, and share important information and next steps related to your claim.
In a life-threatening medical emergency, get to a hospital immediately and have a family member or friend call us on your behalf within 24 hours of admission and before any surgery is performed.
The Emergency Travel Specialist will ask some questions about your emergency and any potentially related medical history. Providing accurate information will help make sure you receive the right help and information about your coverage.
Note: You will be asked to provide personal and policy information at the time of case opening.
Here are a few things the representative will ask:
- Details about the incident and the type of assistance you require.
- Your full name, group plan number, plan member certificate number, and the 4-digit benefits card group number.
- The patient’s name and confirmation of provincial health insurance coverage.
- Details about you, your symptoms and location to provide guidance on next steps and identify the appropriate care for your situation.
If asked to pay up front
Call us immediately. We will attempt to arrange direct billing with the medical provider so you’re not out of pocket. Acceptance of billing information is solely at the discretion of the medical provider, so at times members may be required to provide the up-front payment. Ensure you obtain an itemized invoice and medical records for your claim submission.
Do not surrender your passport
If asked to surrender your passport due to a medical incident or emergency, refuse to do so and contact us immediately.
About your coverage2
While travelling outside of your province of residence, you’re covered for:
- Immediate medical treatment for a sudden, unexpected injury, a new medical condition or a specific medical problem or chronic condition that was medically stable3 prior to departure.
- Emergencies related to normal pregnancies, so long as travel is completed at least 4 weeks (check benefits booklet to confirm) before the due date.
Valid Government Health Insurance Plan (GHIP) coverage is required for you and your dependents.
Note: A medical emergency ends when a patient is considered medically stable enough to return to their home province or territory for further treatment, if needed.
Medical records: Depending on the nature of the incident, medical records from a plan member’s Canadian medical providers may be required, as well as from the medical provider who was seen during the medical emergency. You may be asked to provide your authorization to access these records.
Travel claims can take longer to process than regular health and dental claims: When you call and start the claims process, you’ll be sent the required forms. As soon as these forms are received, we can begin to collect the information necessary to process your claim.
Collection notices: Sometimes medical providers involve collection agencies to recover overdue payments. Call immediately if you receive a call or collection notice related to your out-of-country emergency claim. We will work directly with the medical provider or collection agent to resolve the issue.
Claims portal - An easier way to submit your claims.
Did you know you can complete the necessary details to file your travel claim on the Claims Portal instead of using a traditional claim form? Also, if you couldn’t contact us at the time of your emergency and you paid out-of-pocket expenses, you’ll be able to submit your claim online. The Claims Portal allows you to submit your claim digitally, upload documents, and track the status of your claim directly online.
The Canada/U.S. toll-free or collect numbers are printed on the back of your benefits card (1-800-265-9977). You can also reach us toll-free from countries that participate in the Universal International Toll-Free (UITF) service by using the international toll-free number printed on the back of your benefits card.4
For more tips on international calling, check this dialing guide.
Note: In some countries, calls may be routed to a US phone carrier. If the international toll-free number does not get you through to us, please dial the Canada/USA 1-800 number, or call collect5. See below for tips on how to call from Cuba and Mexico.
If you are planning to take your cell phone out of the country, please ensure your phone is set-up to do so before you travel, including enabling roaming. This preparation will prevent possible issues when you are trying to use your cell phone during an emergency. Contact your cellular provider for more guidance (before you travel). Landlines are a reliable option.
- Certain destinations prevent outbound collect calls, such as Cuba and international cruises. If you need to contact us from a location where you are unable to access the toll-free number, dial direct: 1 519 741-8450. You can ask us to call you back to minimize your out-of-pocket costs. You will be reimbursed for telephone charges incurred, excluding roaming charges.
- Toll-free from Mexico: 00-1-800-800-1448. In some areas of Mexico, only one zero of the international code (i.e., 001) is needed. You should confirm the prefix numbers upon arrival.
- UITF: Country code + 800 9221-9221. The UITF number is an 11-digit number with the middle set of numbers comprised of four digits, rather than the three-digit North American format. The country code refers to the country you are calling from and not the country you are calling. Again, you should confirm the correct country code when you arrive at your destination. Check online or take advantage of the pre-trip assistance services offered to find country codes before you leave.
1 Travellers are required to meet the terms, conditions, and eligibility requirements of their travel insurance policy in order for their coverage to be in effect. The requirement to purchase additional coverage does not void or cancel the existing coverage from Manulife.
2 All plans are subject to specific limits and maximums. To confirm which services you are eligible for, you should refer to your benefits booklet, or speak to your plan administrator or a Manulife representative.
3 A medical problem or chronic condition is considered medically stable if, in the past 90 days, you have not been treated or tested for new conditions or symptoms; your existing symptoms haven’t increased or worsened; you haven’t changed treatments or medications; you haven’t been hospitalized for treatment of an existing condition; you do not have appointments or tests planned after your return home.
4 UITF countries include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea (South), Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom (England and Scotland). This listing is subject to change. For countries not reflected on the current list, plan members should continue to use the collect number provided on their benefits card.
5 The reliability or quality of phone lines outside Canada are not guaranteed. This is beyond our control.
- Passport (original and photo)
- Benefits card (original and photo)
- Provincial health insurance card (original and photo)
- Proof of out-of-country travel health insurance if needed
- Travel Assistance toll-free/collect call numbers
- Proof of COVID-19 vaccine status if required
- Proof of negative COVID-19 test if required
Calling Emergency Travel Assistance
If you need to call from Cuba, call directly:
Cuba does not allow toll-free calls or collect calls. Dial direct and you can ask us to call you back to minimize your out-of-pocket costs.
Toll-free from Mexico:
In some areas of Mexico, only one zero of the international code (i.e., 001) is needed. You should confirm the prefix numbers upon arrival.
Country code + 800 9221-9221
The UITF number is an 11-digit number with the middle set of numbers comprised of four digits, rather than the three-digit North American format. The country code refers to the country you are calling from and not the country you are calling. Again, you should confirm the correct country code when you arrive at your destination. Double check the country code before you leave on your trip. If you need assistance, call and the pre-trip assistance team can help you.
The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (Manulife).
Travel Insurance is Underwritten by The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (Manulife) and its fully owned subsidiary, First North American Insurance Company. Manulife is not responsible for the availability or content of external websites. Manulife, Manulife & Stylized M Design, and Stylized M Design are trademarks of The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company and are used by it, and by its affiliates under license. © 2023 The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company. All rights reserved. PO Box 2580, STN B Montreal QC H3B 5C6.