Valley First

Mitigating Risk When Travelling Abroad

Travel insurance critical to mitigating risk when travelling abroad
October 31, 2014

Penticton, B.C.—While fear shouldn’t be the order of the day, Ebola has thrust questions about medical care while traveling abroad back into the spotlight. The epidemic may be considered isolated and outside-the-norm, but it points to the reality of risk when travelling internationally.

Yet, a majority of Canadians do not regularly purchase travel insurance. A recent survey indicated that only 47 per cent of Canadians always purchase travel insurance before taking a trip.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement travel brings,” says Brett Innis, an insurance expert with Valley First. “People just tend to forget about insurance or think nothing is likely to happen to them—even if it’s just a quick trip south of the border.”

The odds of a medical emergency while travelling are likely not much greater than when at home. The trouble is the access to medical care abroad if something does happen.

“Travel introduces some risk partially because, should you need medical assistance, you’d be accessing care from a system that doesn’t cover you by virtue of residency.” says Innis. “What’s more, your provincial health care plan will probably pay for very little.”

Melissa Brown, mother of three young children, can attest to the minimal out-of-country medical coverage provided by provincial healthcare. An unexpected illness threw a kink into Brown’s family spring break vacation to Disneyland a few years ago.

“We had to seek care at a hospital for two of my kids who came down with some sort of flu-like virus the day after we got off the plane,” she says. “When all was said and done, the total cost, including prescriptions, was more than $2,000 for a 15-minute visit. The province paid only about $50 towards that.”

Brown says the balance of the expenses was paid by insurance coverage provided through employee benefits.

“Some employee benefit packages and credit cards offer travel benefits with fair medical coverage,” says Innis. “But these policies have limits on coverage amounts, the kinds of conditions covered, and there are deductibles, whereas stand-alone travel insurance will often provide greater flexibility and may have no deductible.”

As far as insurance costs go, benefit seems to be on the side of the young rather than the young at heart. Innis says the cost of travel insurance varies based on age, health and pre-existing medical conditions, and length of trip. The younger you are, the better your health is and the shorter your trip is, the lower the cost will be.

“If you’re younger, you may be OK with the coverage afforded by your credit card or employee benefits,” Innis says. “But if you’re older or have health conditions, it’s worth your while to consider additional coverage. As we move into the winter travel season, travellers seeking a balm for the winter blues would do well to do a little more homework on the perceived risk of their trip.”

About Valley First

Valley First is a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.'s third-largest credit union, which has 38 branches and 29 insurance offices throughout the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Kitimat and Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys. Led by Launi Skinner, First West has $7.7 billion in assets under administration, more than 177,000 members and close to 1,300 employees.

Have a question? We can provide you with the information you're looking for.


Use our contact form to send us a message—we'll be sure to reply to you with the details you're looking for shortly.

In Person

If you're more comfortable coming in to see us, we'd be happy to chat with you about the questions you have.

By Phone

If you’d like to call us, here is a complete list of our branch and insurance office numbers.



Social Feed

Visit us on Facebook or Twitter

Sign up for our e-Newsletter