Yes, I know there is a travel advisory in place and the federal government is urging all Canadians to stay in the country. That said, people still have reasons and need to get on a plane. My husband, for example, is working in the UK right now because that is the only place where he can find work. I am considering joining him at some point because keeping the family apart until Xmas isn’t really a reasonable option unless zombies truly are the next phase of this pandemic. In that case, I will stay in Toronto and buy him a sharp ax and new running shoes on Amazon UK. Other people may want to visit family, go to funerals or reconnect with a partner who is overseas. Maybe you had coronavirus and now, fully recovered, you feel like your odds of getting it again are pretty slim and you are willing to take a calculated risk and fly off to Greece to hang out in a secluded villa for a few weeks.
If you are planning to hunker down and continue to work from home, maybe you’re considering doing so in another country that is offering visas to those who wish to take advantage of that opportunity. The list of places offering a special visa to remote workers from deemed safe countries is growing and very appealing to help ride out this pandemic. Each country has some sort of application process. Most require a fee, some sort of proof of income, a valid passport and medical insurance. It’s a great way for these places to boost their tourism economy and for remote workers to take the opportunity to live and work abroad. Does working from the beach in Barbados appeal to you? Because they have launched a 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp that would allow visitors to live and work there for up to a year. If beaches aren’t your thing, Germany, Spain and The Czech Republic are also good options. The Czech Republic already has a long-term business visa that targets freelance and remote workers who want to live there for longer periods of time. If that interests you, you have to apply through their consulates.
The bottom line is that there are viable reasons for people to travel out of the country. I did some digging to see what kind of health insurance is available because the number one concern is health coverage in the event of COVID19 exposure. But also, take a look at what countries you can visit, which countries require a quarantine, which ones require a negative test at the airport, and which ones have just shut the front door.
As always, this is a very fluid situation and as we have seen, a country can go from barely any new infections to a “HOLY SHIT, SHUT THE GATES!” lockdown in a matter of days, so keep that in mind at all times and weigh all of the emergency alternatives. If you’ve found yourself stuck in Portugal or Malta and they locked the place down, can you afford to stay and ride it out until things settle again? Do you have the flexibility to adhere to sudden calls for 14-day quarantines? Can you spare two weeks for a quarantine when you get back home? All things that need to be considered anywhere you go.
The biggest obstacle, up until now, has been travel insurance that will cover COVID related illnesses. Because of the federal travel advisory, our options have been pretty much nil but in the last couple of weeks, some plans are now presenting themselves to us.
The first one I read about was Emirates Airlines. They announced that if you fly with their airline, they will cover travellers for up to $150,000 EURO if you require medical treatment and $100 EURO per day for up to 14 -days to quarantine, if necessary. This applies to travel between now and October 31 (the flight needs to be completed on or before this date) . I couldn’t get a straight answer regarding whether the Canadian travel advisory would nullify this offer for Canadians or not and it’s not clear exactly how you can make this work for you, since Emirates is not flying to many locations out of Canada. I tried to see if you could fly to Europe on a different airline and then book an Emirates flight to your final destination to see if that would work, but again, nobody has answered these questions. That said, it is worth looking into if you are planning to travel. I am hoping that in the near future, we will see other airlines follow suit along with rapid testing in airports either before boarding or when landing that would eliminate or cut down on quarantine requirements. Something is going to have to happen if the travel industry wants to stay afloat and many countries are feeling the pain of a decimated tourist season.
Along the lines of what Emarites is offering, you can also get covid coverage if you travel to Portugal from here – only for travel in Portugal but I think we might see more places start to offer these sorts of incentives to get tourists to come back.
A very exciting prospect comes from Safety Wing, an insurance firm that is a US/Norway based company that bills itself as “Insurance for Nomads”. I spoke to a couple of people from the Safety Wing and they assured me that covid related illness is covered and you can either just get a 4-week policy OR you can buy a policy that you can renew every 4 weeks, in case you are planning to stay away for some time. With that plan, you can keep renewing it until you have reached 364 days of coverage.
The prices and limitations change with the age group but the 10 to 39 year old age group costs $40.04USD for 4 weeks of travel insurance with a max of $250,000 USD of coverage and a $250USD deductible. My age group pricing would cost me $101.64 USD for the same coverage. Only medically necessary expenses are covered so a covid test would only be covered if you show symptoms and/or is recommended by a doctor. As long as the medical report says that you contracted the virus during your trip, you are covered – it’s not required, but I would get a test the day before I left the country just to be safe so that if I fell ill early on into to my trip, I could show a negative result here at home in case they tried to say that I was sick before I left the country. The other interesting thing is that you can purchase the insurance during your trip and do NOT have to do so from Canada and, in fact, Canadians must make the initial purchase outside of Canada due to local regulations. You can even purchase the coverage while in the air and if you set the start date for that day, you are covered immediately.
Another company, Hey Mondo, offers travel insurance for Canadians that will cover illness but not flight cancellation, shut borders or covid lockdown costs. For me, as a 56 year old Canadian, I would pay $159.05USD for $100,000USD of medical coverage, so not as good as Safety Wing, but it is an available option for you.
Finally, a Canadian company called Medipac, is promising to NOT apply Exclusion 29 (applies to the federal travel advisory) to their policy coverage as long as you are not travelling to a destination where the government warns against ALL TRAVEL – for any reason other than COVID, like taking a cruise or travel to certain countries that are dangerous for a variety of reasons.
Medipac is offering an early bird deadline of August 31 to lock in the current rates for all travel up to June 30, 2021. I would have to pay between $135.85 and $284.05 for the various levels of insurance with a $99 deductible assuming I am making a 28-30 day trip. Coverage is up to $2million USD including hospital and emergency room expenses, doctor visits, etc so this is the most comprehensive coverage available. Check their website for all of the details and to apply for coverage online.
As far as where you can go, as a Canadian, this is fluid and at the time of this writing, you can go to any EU country, although Italy and Andorra require quarantines upon arrival and other nations are imposing other various requirements from negative PCR tests 48 hours in advance and rapid tests on arrival to minimum stays in the country. Non-EU countries are not a guarantee – for instance, Norway is not allowing Canadian tourists in unless they meet a strict set of requirement protocols. Canadians cannot drive over the border to the USA but they can fly. Again, you should check the country you wish to visit to see if they have announced any new restrictions for Canadians and be prepared to do your travelling on the fly so that you can adapt to the ever-changing situation.
Many Caribbean nations, like Bahamas, are allowing Canadians to enter but they have to show a PCR test before arrival and undergo a 14-day quarantine as well as a negative PCR test to be released from quarantine so, unless you are moving there, this sort of situation doesn’t lend itself to a vacation. Aruba and Barbados, on the other hand, requires a negative PCR test 72 hrs before boarding.
At this time, Canada is not participating in any sort of reciprocal air bridges or travel corridors but I am keeping my eye on this situation daily, as I am assuming that eventually, we will open up in some sort of capacity with other nations with equally low transmission numbers like Malta, Portugal and now, Italy. I will update this article as things change. Regardless of where you go and how long you stay out of the country, all Canadians must quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival back home. I am constantly looking to see if more countries are going to start doing things like mandatory rapid testing upon arrival, maybe paired with a mini quarantine or other airlines offering insurance along the lines of what Emirates is advertising and will update this story as needed.
*all photos by Carole Nelson Brown unless otherwise indicated.
*I am not advocating that people run off overseas for a lark but with the understanding that people are going to travel abroad, for a myriad of reasons, I am just giving the most useful information that I can find since I am researching myself.
If you choose to fly, take all safety precautions, invest in some really good masks, eye goggles if you really want to act with an abundance of caution, plenty of hand sanitizer and a baggie full of disinfecting wipes. Maintain social distance as much as possible, try to keep your mask on while flying, even if it means skipping a meal and keep the overhead vent open full blast. If you can spring for business class, this is the time to do so.
When in any sort of an Uber or taxi, sit as far away from the driver as possible (only get in with a driver who is also masked) and keep your window open to ensure proper ventilation. Once you are there, maintain all of the same safety protocols you would stick to here as far as masks, social distancing, avoid indoor activities with strangers.