Canada is one of the safest, cleanest countries in the world; as such, traveling in eastern Canada doesn't pose any special health threats. Poisonous snakes? Sharks? Tropical diseases? Not here. And the food and water are very clean and safe to consume. Of course, you should still prepare for every eventuality anyway. Here are a few guidelines on how to do that.
General Availability Of Health Care
Canada's health-care system is excellent; you shouldn't ever have trouble finding English-speaking medical help, unless you're in very remote areas of, for example, Newfoundland or Labrador. Travel Health Online (www.tripprep.com), sponsored by a consortium of travel medicine practitioners, can offer helpful advice on traveling abroad. The group maintains a relationship with one physician in the eastern provinces, Dr. Frank Lo in Halifax. In addition, The International Society of Travel Medicine (www.istm.org) lists one affiliated travel clinic on PEI and another in Moncton, New Brunswick.
Drugstores & Pharmacies -- Chain drugstores and independent pharmacies are located throughout Atlantic Canada. Stores in larger cities and towns are likely to be open later than those in more remote villages. One of the larger national chains is Pharmasave (www.pharmasave.com), with about 70 stores in the four provinces (though most of them are in Nova Scotia).
What To Do If You Get Sick Away From Home
If you become sick in Canada, you may very well need to pay all your medical costs upfront and seek reimbursement later. Medicare and Medicaid, for example, do not provide coverage for medical costs outside the U.S. Before leaving home, find out what medical services your health insurance covers. To protect yourself, consider buying medical travel insurance.
Remember that very few health insurance plans pay for medical evacuation back to the U.S. (which can cost US$10,000 and up), but a number of companies offer medical evacuation services anywhere in the world. If you're ever hospitalized more than 150 miles from home (eastern Canada is more than 150 miles from everywhere), MedjetAssist (tel. 800/527-7478; www.medjetassistance.com) will pick you up and fly you to the hospital of your choice virtually anywhere in the world in a medically equipped and staffed aircraft 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Annual memberships are US$250 for an individual, US$385 for a family; you can also purchase shorter-term memberships starting at about US$100.
Pharmacies are easy to find in eastern Canada . Still, if you suffer from a chronic illness, consult your doctor before your departure. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and carry them in their original containers, with pharmacy labels -- otherwise they won't make it through airport security. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.
Canadians are covered when traveling within Canada. However, most U.S. health plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) do not provide coverage for travel to Canada, and the ones that do often require you to pay for services upfront and reimburse you only after you return home.
As a safety net, if you're a U.S. citizen, you may want to buy travel medical insurance, particularly if you're traveling to a remote or high-risk area where emergency evacuation might be necessary.
The towns and cities of Atlantic Canada are small, well policed, and generally safe. Rowdies and drunks may occasionally be annoying or even a bit threatening, especially late on weekend nights in downtown neighborhoods, but serious crime is extremely rare in eastern Canada.
Nonetheless, whenever you're traveling in an unfamiliar place in this region, stay alert, be aware of your immediate surroundings, and take precautions, such as locking your car and hotel room and not walking alone in dark, unpopulated urban areas late at night. Try not to drive late at night when there's likely to be no one else out on the road if you run into trouble. And carry a cellphone at all times if you have one; coverage in eastern Canada certainly isn't thorough, but it is improving year by year.
The emergency number for eastern Canada is tel. 911 throughout, the same as it is in the United States.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.