When most people think of the Caribbean, images of white sands, sunshine and beach resorts spring to mind. However, the Caribbean has much more to offer than just beach holidays. Each of the islands in the Caribbean has its own special flavour and visitors will be surprised by the vibrant culture and unique adventures that await them. The islands also have their own idiosyncrasies when it comes to medical care. We’ll explain some of these and why travel insurance is a must for a trip to the Caribbean.
Using travel insurance in the Caribbean
The types and level of medical care in the Caribbean varies as much as its islands. Travellers should consider their own state of health before they decide where to go because there is varying levels of healthcare available on the islands.
If you believe that you might need hospital treatment due to a pre-existing medical condition, research your destination very carefully and adjust your travel plans before you book your holiday . There are really two things to take into consideration - if the island itself has good medical services or if it has adequate facilities so that you can be evacuated quickly in the case of unforeseen circumstances.
For example, if you suspect that you may need to be treated on holiday at any point, the beautiful British Islands with their tiny bungalows and slow paced life may leave you struggling to get fast treatment . In fact, normally curable diseases such as pneumonia or other bacterial infections can quickly become fatal for patients on the island. Clinics and hospitals on the smaller islands are not large enough or equipped to handle all medical eventualities.
On the other side of the spectrum, Martinique and Barbados have medical care which is improving and they are making significant advances in care.
However, most of the serious illnesses are still dealt with by evacuations either to Florida or Miami. Dr Cai Glushak, international medical director and chief medical officer for Axa, says that traditionally, travellers are air evacuated to hospitals such as Jackson Memorial hospital or Uhealth International, which are known for their ability to quickly process patients coming in from the Caribbean.
Reva is the air ambulance service responsible for most of the evacuations in the Caribbean. It reports that most evacuations occur for cardiac issues, cerebrovascular accidents and traumas.
Things you should look for when buying travel insurance for the Caribbean
There are certain travel insurance benefits that you should look for in every policy, but destination does play a huge role in deciding what amounts to include and any additional cover you might need. We have created an in-depth guide on choosing travel insurance that you might also like to read. Here are some essential factors to consider for the Caribbean:
Valid in the Caribbean: Obviously, the policy you purchase must be valid in the Caribbean. There are no major travel insurance companies that exclude the Caribbean. If you are booking a single trip policy you will usually be asked to enter all your countries separately. If you are buying an annual policy and visiting multiple countries you will need to get worldwide cover. Make sure it includes the Caribbean islands when you get a quote and book. There are typically two worldwide policies to choose from: with or without the Caribbean.
Full medical coverage and evacuation coverage: For any serious illness or injury it is most likely that you will be evacuated by air ambulance from the islands. Cost can build up really quickly, so make sure that this is included in your insurance policy and the level of cover is adequate. If you do need medical attention while you’re away, talk to an advisor on the overseas emergency assistance number before treatment (if it’s possible).
Lost, stolen or damaged belongings or luggage: Island hopping and visiting multiple destinations make it more likely that your luggage may be lost or damaged. Also, various urban parts of the Caribbean such as Pointe-à-Pitre, Fort-de-France, Kingston, Port-au-Prince and downtown Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago all have reputations for robberies and pickpockets. Take sensible precautions whilst out and about, and make sure all your valuables such as jewellery and gadgets are covered by insurance.
Dangerous activity coverage or exclusion: If you plan to do some scuba diving or hiking in the jungle then make sure these are covered as part of your policy. Usually snorkelling is covered as standard, but scuba diving will often need to be added as an optional extra. Occasionally, scuba diving is included in standard policies but only diving until a certain depth, so always check!
Hurricane coverage: The Caribbean is right in the middle of hurricane alley and in recent years has been affected by hurricanes that have brought the islands’ tourism industry and local communities to their knees. Hurricane season is between the 1st June and November 30th, which also just happens to be the most popular time for tourists. Make sure that you are covered for natural disasters on your policy, especially if you are going to book these dates. Bad weather could mean a delay or even that you have to cancel your holiday. Good travel insurance for the Caribbean will reimburse you for both.
Travel insurance for Caribbean cruises
One of the most popular types of holidays in the Caribbean is cruises. Turquoise blue waters and the magic of visiting a host of different places both have a really big appeal!
However, there are some specific problems and issues that you may have on a cruise which you wouldn’t otherwise experience. If you are planning a Caribbean cruise it makes sense to take out a policy which is tailored for cruise holidays. There are only a handful of standard policies that include additional cruise cover. Most providers will allow you to add cruise cover as an optional extra.
Most cruise companies provide their own insurance. However, these protection plans aren’t usually travel insurance. They typically offer only a waiver for cancellation protection and trip interruption. In some cases, they may offer third-party post-departure benefits, but the limits are generally quite low. Specialised cruise travel insurance, on the other hand, can include a wide array of benefits that aren’t available if you take out the standard benefits from your cruise company,such as:
- Generous emergency medical and emergency medical transportation benefits. International medical transportation can exceed £1,000,000 in some parts of the world, so a £25,000 limit won't go far.
- A broad range of covered reasons for trip cancellation/interruption. If you cancel for a reason that's not covered, cruise lines’ protection plans may give you cruise credits that are worth less than the amount of your trip.
- Robust missed connection/trip delay coverage. If your flight into Miami is delayed and you miss your cruise ship's sailing, it may cost you quite a lot to catch up with the ship at its next port of call.
- Supplier default coverage. If your cruise line or tour operator goes under, you need to make sure you'll recoup your travel investment.
- Cabin confinement. If you fall ill on the ship you may be confined to your cabin (under the captain’s orders if it’s contagious!). You will get paid a sum for every day that you miss out on your holiday.
- Missed shore excursions. If you have booked and paid for excursions on the land, you may be reimbursed if you miss these because the ship had to miss that port or you are ill.
Insurance Case Study: don’t miss the boat!
A customer had paid for a cruise in the Caribbean but due to a 13 hour flight delay, they knew they had missed their cruise departure time. They decided not to continue with the cruise. On their return they found that the insurance wouldn’t cover them..
In these circumstances insurers will only provide for cancellation after a delay of 24 hours. In a delay of less time, the provider will usually pay for onward travel so that the traveller can catch up with the cruise ship.
If a delay means you miss the ship’s departure, we recommend that customers contact the emergency 24 phone number and explain the situation to see what the best course of action is. This would also give your cancellation claim more validity if it proved impossible to join the cruise later.
Price comparison of travel insurance for the Caribbean
We have compared prices across a random selection of travel insurance policies to give you an indication of what’s on the market. There are literally hundreds of travel insurance policies for the Caribbean. With so much choice you can be sure that there’s one for you.
We ran some quotes for a 35-year-old female travelling to Barbados in the Caribbean. We did not declare any pre-existing medical conditions or request any optional extras.
|Provider||Cost for Single Trip Policy||Cost for Annual Policy||Standard Benefits Limits|
|Coverwise (Standard Policy)||£9.95||£16.45||Medical care: £20 million
|Insure and Go (Light Economy Policy)||£13.50||£23.49||Medical care: £15 million
|Cover for You (Emerald Policy)||£15.00||£36.50||Medical care: £15 million
|Virgin Money (Economy Policy)||£15.57||£24.78||Medical care: £15 million
|ASDA Money (Economy Plus Policy)||£16.98||£35.39||Medical care: £10 million
Figures and information correct as of October 2019. For the most up to date figures, always look at your quote or policy wording.
Remember, while price is important, we guide you to never choose on price alone. Always consider the benefits that are most important to you (e.g. medical expenses).
Travelling in the Caribbean: good to know
No matter what type of holiday you have planned, some basic preparation is always wise. Here are some important factors to consider when planning a trip in the Caribbean:
- Drinking Water - The Caribbean sea stretches for 2.754 million km² and there are over 700 Caribbean islands (many uninhabited). The tap water is as diverse as the islands themselves! Always check before drinking the tap water as some will cause you problems, while other islands have tap water they say is better than bottled water!
As an example, Jamaica has won the award for the country with the best drinking water in the region for three years in a row. It was also one of the first countries ever to create a pipe water system. In contrast, the Bahamas is one place to avoid the tap water, as hepatitis A and typhoid can be contracted. Luckily, many resorts give out free bottled water to guests.
- Vaccinations - The UK government recommends visiting TravelHealthPro.co.uk for information before you travel to any country. It provides excellent information surrounding potential health risks and travel advice relating to your wellbeing.
- Visa - UK nationals do not need visas for short stays on the Caribbean islands. However, the length of visa-free stay permitted ranges from 21 days to 90 days depending on the island. There are also different rules for entering the islands, so be sure to check these on the government website before you depart. For example, in order to enter Barbados, you need to show proof of an onward or return ticket. Cuba requires you to show proof of travel insurance before you can enter the country.
If you are going on a cruise around the islands, you will probably need a visa. Many Caribbean cruises start from Miami, in the USA, meaning you would need to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) or Caribbean Cruise Visa. You will also need an ESTA if you visit any US territory, such as Puerto Rico.
- Emergency Services - The phone numbers for emergency services are different across many of the islands. In some countries, the number is different for police, fire and ambulance services too. You can find a complete list of the numbers here.
Data and information correct as of October 2019.
All material on this page and the selectra.co.uk website is for information purposes only and does not constitute any form of financial advice. Selectra.co.uk is not responsible for any consequences that might arise from your use of the information provided.