09/06/2012 06:23 EDT | Updated 09/07/2012 11:17 EDT

Travel Insurance A Second Thought For Canadians: American Express


Whether they like it or not, the typical Canadian carries a few perceptions with them when travelling. They're nice. They're friendly. They're polite. And apparently they're big risk takers. That's according to a survey released by American Express Canada.

While 39 per cent of Canadians don't consider themselves a risk taker, there's a handful that tend to tempt fate one way or the other by means which range from the harmless to the intentional. According to the survey, 43 per cent of Canadians have said they've travelled alone while 15 per cent say they've travelled off their resort despite being told not too. In that same vein, one in 10 Canadians say they've travelled to countries with known travel warnings.

Possibly the costliest risk that Canadians gamble with comes with travel insurance, with a third of Canucks admitting they've never purchased it.

"The high percentage of Canadians who choose to opt out of travel insurance when planning a vacation is rather surprising for a nation of people that don't consider themselves to be risk takers," says Jeff Gladwish, Director of Insurances at American Express Canada. "A lot of people don't realize that your provincial health care may not cover your entire medical expenses abroad, leaving you vulnerable while you're away from home."

This risk-and-reward gamble with travel insurance recently made headlines when a 24-year-old Toronto woman fell off a catamaran while vacationing in Croatia.

Anna Leibenko was partying with her friends during Croatia's Yacht Week when she slipped, smashing her head against the catamaran's stairs, knocking her unconscious. She was taken to a local hospital where she later went into a coma. While her friends had traveller's insurance, Leibenko did not.

Frank Fotia, the chief operating officer with CAA’s national office, says no Canadian should ever leave the country without travel insurance because of the grave potential consequences. For a few hundred dollars, Fotia says, travellers can be covered for everything, including air ambulance.

My experience has been young people who perceive themselves to be invincible just don’t think about it,” he said. “I have an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old myself, and insurance is not on their mind. They’re thinking about a trip,” he said in an interview with the Toronto Star.

The American Express survey suggests that two per cent of Canadians would be willing and able to pay $10,000 or more out-of-pocket for medical expenses while travelling, an amount unlikely to cover even the most basic of accidents in many parts of the world.

A fund-raising website has been set up by Leibenko's family and friends managed to raise $140, 000 to fly the Toronto native home after taking care of her $93, 000 air ambulance bill in Croatia, according to the Canadian Press. She is currently undergoing various tests at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre In Toronto.