What You Need to Know Before You Travel Abroad

Considering a lengthy winter vacation or a permanent move? Here are a few things you need to know. For more country-specific information, visit the Foreign Affairs website. They even offer a registration service for Canadians travelling or living abroad so that the government can find and help you in the event of a natural disaster or war.

If you’re considering a lengthier vacation than the standard 10 days, here are some important areas to consider before heading out.

Medical Services

Check with a health care professional six to eight weeks prior to departure to determine your need for vaccinations and/or preventive medications. Ensure that your routine immunizations (e.g., tetanus, diphtheria, polio, and measles) are up to date.

Medical services should be easily available in large cities, but can be limited in remote areas, especially beach resorts. You will often have to pay in advance for treatments. Prices may not be regulated by the government and can be costly. You cannot rely entirely on your provincial health plan while out of the country; supplementary travel medical insurance should be purchased prior to departure. Keep the details of your plan on you and be sure to leave a copy with a friend or family member at home. If you are away from Canada long enough to lose your provincial health coverage, full replacement insurance will be necessary. Check with your insurance provider before leaving Canada.

Ensure that any medication you intend to take with you is legal and readily available in the country you are visiting. Prescription medications should be kept in the original container and be packed in carry-on luggage. It is recommended that you bring an adequate supply and a copy of the prescription. Always consult a physician before purchasing medicine manufactured in the country you are visiting.

Car Insurance

If you plan to drive in the country you are visiting, you may need to obtain additional automobile insurance prior to departure. Your Canadian coverage is most likely not valid outside the country. Although it can be expensive, full coverage is recommended and should be purchased before you leave Canada. You may also want to consider obtaining an International Driving Permit, issued by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).

Real Estate

If you are planning to purchase real estate abroad, it is advisable to consult a lawyer, as real estate transactions, laws and practices can be complex and differ considerably from those in Canada. Additionally, rental agreements may not be regulated by the government, and in the event of a dispute, you may require the services of a local lawyer.


Speak to your veterinarian prior to departure to ensure your pets’ documents are up to date. Upon entry, most countries require vaccination records and health certificates for cats, dogs and other animals travelling with you.


If you are interested in working abroad, be sure to check work requirements with your destination country prior to departure. In most cases, work visas should be obtained prior to departure and most countries will not grant permission for a foreigner to work if they have already entered the country as a tourist.

Entry Restrictions

Most countries have specific restrictions on what visitors may bring into the country. Cuba prohibits the entry at customs of satellite phones, GPS equipment, and some small appliances, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. Both Cuba and Mexico demand prior import permission on charitable donations. Australia has strict laws regarding the importation of food and animal products. Panama requires all visitors to have the equivalent of US$500 or a credit card upon entry, while Tunisia does not allow the import (or export) of Tunisian dinars, and all foreign currency must be declared. These restrictions vary from country to country and are often updated. Be sure you to check entry requirements and prohibited items before leaving Canada.

For a traveller’s checklist go to http://www.voyage.gc.ca/main/before/checklist-en.asp

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