Looking to travel in Canada or abroad? Here's what you need to know
TORONTO -- As provinces and countries continue to ease lockdown restrictions, many Canadians contemplating a summer trip are wondering what a potential holiday amid the pandemic could look like.
While most provinces have opened their borders for travel within Canada, some popular international destinations are also beginning to ease their restrictions in a move to welcome back tourists. However, not everywhere is open, and travellers must follow certain rules.
Here's what you need to know now if you are considering taking a trip in Canada or abroad.
TRAVEL WITHIN CANADA
With most international travel only recently starting to reopen, some Canadians are instead taking the chance to explore their own backyard.
While restrictions vary across the provinces and territories, most of the country is open for domestic tourism. However, provincial authorities have cautioned that rules around domestic travel are subject to change.
Canadians can currently travel to Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. without having to self-isolate for 14 days. Those looking to visit Manitoba and Nova Scotia may be required to self-isolate, depending on which part of the country they are travelling from.
Additionally, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have restricted all non-essential travel into and out of northern communities in the provinces.
In Atlantic Canada, a "bubble" travel system allows residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to move freely between the four provinces without having to self-isolate.
If all goes well, Newfoundland Premier Dwight Ball has suggested that restrictions on out-of-region travellers may be further relaxed in the province. However, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said last week that he doubted that the province would be looking "beyond the Atlantic bubble any time soon."
Most travellers from outside of Atlantic Canada are not yet permitted to visit P.E.I. or New Brunswick, but those who own cottages in either province are allowed in provided they self-isolate for 14 days.
Nunavut and the Northwest Territories remain off-limits to travellers from all provinces, except residents of Churchill, Man., who are permitted to enter Nunavut. The two territories have established a travel bubble and its residents can visit one another without self-isolating, as long as they haven't left their territory in the two weeks prior to their trip.
Residents of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and B.C. are also allowed to enter Yukon without quarantining.
TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF CANADA
As other countries start to open their borders, the Canadian government’s advisory against all non-essential international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic remains in effect until further notice.
Canadians can still travel abroad, since the government’s advisory is not an order, however the federal government cautions that they do so at their own risk.
Canadians are still limited on where they can travel to. Regions that have opened their borders to Canadians include European Union countries such as Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Denmark and Germany, in addition to Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, among others.
The Bahamas, Bermuda and Aruba are also open to Canadian travellers, but require them to take a COVID-19 test and submit the result upon arrival. Only those with negative results will be allowed in.
While flying to another country is an option, the Canada-U.S. land border remains closed to non-essential travel until at least Aug. 21. The ban on discretionary travel was first introduced in March and has been extended each month since.
Regardless of what country they visit, Canadians are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return home.
Additionally, Canadians must follow new rules when flying that include wearing face masks when in transit or at the airport, and having their temperature checked before boarding.
WHAT ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE?
With the federal government’s travel advisory likely to be in effect for a while, so will limits on travel insurance.
Joan Weir, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association’s director of health and disability policy, told CTVNews.ca that travel insurance is available through some companies but may not cover trip disruptions related to COVID-19.
"COVID-19 is now a known issue so it won't be in the coverage on policies going forward," Weir said in a phone interview on Monday. "If you're an essential traveller, you'll be covered but if you are traveling for recreation, you probably won’t find any insurance that you could purchase."
Weir explained that if your flight is cancelled due to the pandemic or you contract the novel coronavirus while abroad, those costs may not be covered by the insurance company.
"Without having trouble medical insurance, if you are at a destination and you fall ill, it could cost a lot of money to get treatments for whatever it is that you fall ill with," Weir said, adding that travelling without insurance is "always a risk."
Weir also said travellers should be prepared to return to Canada quickly should the Government of Canada raise the travel advisory level amid the pandemic. This may also result in additional costs to travellers.
"If travel coverage isn't available, then maybe you shouldn't be travelling right now," she said.
CONCERNS AROUND CLEANLINESS
While Canadians can travel to some areas within and outside of the country, some people may still not be ready to get on an airplane.
However, Toronto-based travel consultant Barry Choi said "there has never been a cleaner time" to fly than right now.
"With an airplane, you’re in closer contact with people. A lot of airlines have stopped keeping that middle seat empty, so there's a risk. But airlines do require every passenger to wear masks, there's minimal contact with the flight staff, you have your temperature checked before you depart so there are safety measures in place," Choi said in a phone interview on Monday.
Choi explained that airplanes are designed to filter the air better than other systems to ensure containments -- not just dust or bacteria, but moisture and any other particles that could potentially harm the passengers or the crew -- are removed.
"It's really up to the traveller to decide if they're comfortable with those steps," he said.
Choi, who travelled in March, said he had never been on a cleaner plane before with passengers and staff taking extra precautions to ensure the aircraft was disinfected.
"Most people wiped down the armrest, the serving tray, the window and I know the airlines have put in extra steps to make sure their planes are clean like no food service and even spraying disinfectant," Choi said.
"I do think there's never been a cleaner time to get on a plane but again, it really comes down to how comfortable you are with that," he added.
Despite there being enhance cleaning measures on airplanes, Canadians could contract the virus on their flight without knowing it.
A spokesperson from the Public Health Agency of Canada told CTVNews.ca on Monday that the federal government will not notify Canadians after receiving post flight information on a passenger who turns out to have been infected.
The federal government will notify provincial health authorities and list the affected flights on the Government of Canada’s website in the "locations where you may have been exposed to COVID-19" section.
It is then up to each province to decide on how to conduct appropriate contact tracing. However, some provinces are not contacting potentially infected passengers either.
According to the BCCDC website, British Columbia no longer directly contacts passengers from international or domestic flights "who were seated near a confirmed case during the flight. Instead, that information is posted online."
This means it is up to Canadians to do their due diligence before and after a trip to protect themselves while travelling amid the pandemic.
"It all depends on how comfortable you are. The Government of Canada is recommending essential travel only. So if you're thinking about taking a vacation that is recreational, it might not be the best idea given the risks," Choi said.