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 have their own special flavour and visitors will be surprised by the vibrant culture and unique adventures that wait for them. The islands also have their own idiosyncrasies when it comes to medical insurance and this make travel insurance a must when you make your travel arrangements for a trip to the Caribbean.
Travel Insurance 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 different levels of healthcare available on the islands.
We would recommend checking out your destination very carefully and adjusting your travel plans before you book your holiday if you feel like you might be in need of any hospital treatment due to pre existing medical conditions while you are on holiday. There are really two things to take into consideration - if the island itself has good medical services or if it has the facilities so that you can be evacuated fast in the case of unforseen cicumstances. We would recommend that you get a medical evaluation before you go to get the green light before travelling.
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 your medical condition treated. In fact, normally curable disease such as pneumonia or other bacterial infections can quickly become fatal for patients on the island. Smaller clinics and hospitals on the smaller islands may not have the same level of care you may come to expect after living in the UK.
On the other side of the spectrum, Martinique and Barbados have medical care which is slowly improving and making significant advances in care. There are even some bids for medical tourism to the area.
Even still, most of the serious illnesses are 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 who 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 and say that most evacuations occur for cardiac issues, cerebrovascular accidents and traumas.
Things you should look for when buying travel insurance for the Caribbean
- Valid in the Caribbean: Obviously, the plan you purchase must be valid in the Caribbean. There are no major travel insurance companies that exclude the Caribbean but you must ensure that you have worldwide cover which includes the islands when you book and that your policy isn’t only valid in Europe (especially if you have an annual policy.)
- 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 be run up really quickly and you could find yourself unable to pay your medical expenses so make sure that this is included in your insurance policy. Also be wary of hospitals trying to overcharge you for treatment by making sure that you talk to an advisor on the overseas emergency assistance number before treatment.
- Lost, stolen or damaged gear or luggage: Island hopping and visiting various destinations make it more likely that your luggage may be lost or damaged. Also, various urban parts of the Caribbean such as Pointe-a-pitre, Fort-de-France, Kingston, Port-au-Prince and downtown Port of Spain all have reputations for robberies and pickpockets, so take sensible precautions and make sure all your valuables such as jewellery and technology are covered for the worst case scenarios.
- Dangerous activity coverage or exclusion: If you plan to do some scuba diving or hiking in the jungle then make sure that these are covered as part of your policy. Usually snorkelling is covered but scuba diving will need to be added as a bolt on.
- Hurricane Coverage: The Caribbean is right in the middle of hurricane alley and in recent years has been affected by hurricanes which 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 in case a natural disaster threatens to delay or means you have to cancel your holiday - especially if you are going to book these dates.
Travel Insurance for Caribbean Cruise
One of the most popular types of holidays in the Caribbean are cruises. Turquoise blue waters and the magic of visiting a host of different places has a really big appeal!
However, there are some specific problems and issues that you may have on a cruise which you wouldn’t have on a normal holiday. If you are planning a Caribbean cruise it makes sense to take out a policy which is tailored for people on cruises. These policies are generally a more comprehensive travel insurance. This is one time when cheap travel insurance is false economy!
Most cruise companies provide their own insurance. It is absolutely essential to buy travel insurance for a cruise. The nature of cruising means that small travel mishaps, such as a missed flight or lost bag, can become big problems. Medical emergencies may require evacuation to the nearest hospital if the ship’s doctor can’t treat you. And if you have to cancel your trip last-minute, you probably won't get any money back.
However, cruise lines’ 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 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.
- Generous emergency medical and emergency medical transportation benefits. International medical transportation can exceed $100,000 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.
The best travel Insurance Policies for the Caribbean
Firstly, we would recommend thinking about what type of holiday you will be on in the Caribbean. If you are going on a cruise make sure that you look at specialist insurance policies for cruises.
Otherwise we’d make sure that you get plentiful medical and evacuation coverage as if you do get ill in the Caribbean, then you will need to be air evacuated and treated in the USA which will be very costly.
We’d also recommend that you think carefully about your state of health before deciding where to go in the Caribbean. If you think there is a high likelihood that you will need medical care then choose one of the bigger islands which has better access to more comprehensive care.
If you are planning on doing some of the Caribbean’s famous watersports such as scuba diving, water skiing, or paragliding make sure that you compare travel insurance and look carefully at the activities section of your policy documents to make sure these are covered. With most of the insurers that we recommend you can add this on as an extra.
To give you a better idea of how much travel insurance costs we have done a comparison of the 5 best travel insurance policies for the Caribbean.
The quote is for 34 year old woman with no pre existing medical conditions on a two week holiday in the Caribbean. Remember that your quote will be based on your own personal situation and medical history. THe table is provided for illustrative purposes only.
|Provider||Max. Medical Care||Max.Cancellation||Cost Single trip||Cost Annual policy||More|
A customer had paid for a cruise in the Caribbean but due to a delay of 13 hours in the flights there had been delays outside of their control. They decided not to continue with the cruise. On their return they found that the insurance wouldn’t cover the money for their cruise.
In these circumstances insurers will only provide for cancellation in these circumstances after a delay of 24 hours. The usual course of action in these circumstances is that the provider would pay for onward travel so that the traveller can catch up with the cruise ship.
In this case we would recommend that customers contact the emergency 24 phone number and explain the situation to see what the best course of action is to continue with the holiday. This would also give their cancellation claim more validity if that proved impossible.