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Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Guide to Understanding Government Travel Advisories

Is it safe to travel yet? That’s the question on everyone’s mind these days, as the world continues to undergo the largest vaccine rollout in history. The Government of Canada’s travel advisories can help you figure out when - and where - it is safe to travel to, whenever you’re ready to explore again.

Frequently updated, these advisories offer destination-specific advice that will keep you informed, wherever you plan to go. Advisories can be triggered for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Health emergencies (COVID-19, Zika, Ebola, etc.)
  • Terrorism
  • Civil unrest and political instability
  • Natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, wild fires, etc.)

CAA Travel recommends that travellers check advisories for their destination-of-choice before they book, immediately before departure, and again right after leaving to stay optimally informed.


Levels of Travel Advisories

Canada has four different risk levels of travel advisories. These are:

Level 1 - Exercise normal security precautions. This is the lowest level advisory with no significant safety concerns. You’re advised to use common sense and take similar precautions to those you would in Canada.

Level 2 - Exercise a high degree of caution. When travelling to locations under this advisory, you should be cautious at all times because the government has identified safety and security concerns. This doesn’t mean that you should completely avoid travelling to these countries. Just be alert, plan ahead and be sure to monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities if anything concerning is reported or happens.

Level 3 - Avoid non-essential travel. Destinations placed under this advisory have specific safety and security concerns that could put you at risk and you should reconsider your need to travel to them. If you are already there, consider leaving if it’s still safe to do so. 

Level 4 - Avoid all travel. There is an extreme risk to your personal safety and security and you should not travel to this area. If you’re already in the country under this advisory, you should leave as soon as it is safe to do so.

Additionally, with the outbreak of COVID-19, health authorities identified that cruise passengers are at an increased risk of person-to-person spread of the disease. This led the government to issue a new advisory: Avoid all cruise ship travel.


How Advisories Affect Your Travel Insurance

As the pandemic has shown, it is extremely important to purchase travel insurance for any trip abroad. You never know when you will need it.

Equally, travellers should understand the significance of official travel advisories and how these might influence coverage. Depending on your particular travel insurance plan, your policy may cover medical costs if:

  • A Level 3 or 4 travel advisory in is not in place before your departure date
  • A Level 3 or 4 travel advisory in is not in place for your destination at the time of your departure
  • The sickness or injury-related expenses you’re seeking compensation for is not connected to the reason for the travel advisory (i.e. if you break your ankle and need care, you will still be covered even if there is a Level 3 travel advisory in place due to COVID-19)
  • The travel advisory was issued after the date you left for your trip
  • You weren’t participating in, or voluntarily exposing yourself to, a risk (like a riot or civil disorder)

When You Might Not Be Covered…

The two highest risk levels of travel advisories, Levels 3 and 4, can affect your travel insurance, depending on when the travel advisory comes into effect.

Most travel insurance companies may not cover your claim if, at the effective date of your policy, an official travel advisory was issued by the government stating that travellers should “avoid non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel” to the country, region or city you’re travelling to.

For example, if the Canadian Government issued a Level 3 advisory on March 13, 2020, for every country in the world due to COVID-19, and you travelled after March 13, 2020, you would not be covered for any medical costs associated to the pandemic. This is because COVID-19 would be considered a known issue and therefore a general exclusion within the policy.

(Note that this exclusion does not apply to claims for an emergency or a medical condition unrelated to the travel advisory.)


Know Before You Go

When it’s safe to travel again, always remember to register your travel with Global Affairs Canada before your departure. This ensures that the government knows your whereabouts if something goes wrong, and can inform you if there’s an emergency back home.

Be sure to keep tabs on the Government of Canada’s travel advisories and download the official Travel Smart app for up-to-date travel advice and information on your smartphone. The app has information for 200+ destinations and includes advisories, health updates and even emergency contact numbers.

A CAA Travel Consultant should be your first point of contact when you’re ready to travel again. They are your trusted advocate in travel - no matter where you choose to go - and can help you navigate official advisories, so that you can travel with confidence.

Call 1-800-267-8713 to speak to a CAA travel expert or visit your nearest CAA Store!


Every attempt is made to ensure accuracy of information at time of publishing. For current and up-to-date information on travel advisories, please visit travel.gc.ca.