Since 2010 the Cuban government has required that tourists and visitors obtain medical travel insurance before being allowed entry to the country. If you are travelling to Cuba you need to take out travel insurance for that reason alone, let alone all the other reasons for taking our travel insurance. In this article, we’ll cover those reasons and some of the risks of travelling to Cuba to consider before you buy your travel insurance policy for Cuba.
Why Do You Need Travel Insurance for Cuba?
There are a variety of reasons as to why you should take our travel insurance prior to visiting Cuba, and for ensuring that you have proof of your travel insurance when you arrive in the country.
The Cuban Government Require Proof of Medical Insurance
Since May 2010 it has been a requirement of the Cuban government that all foreign visitors purchase travel health insurance. This rule applies to Cuban living abroad as well as foreign tourists. The reason for this is to ensure that those holidaying on the island nation have adequate medical coverage prior to arriving in Cuba. If you are ill and need medical assistance while you are visiting Cuba, then Cuban authorities will delay your return home until you have paid your outstanding medical bills.
You may be asked for proof of your Cuban travel and health insurance at immigration when arriving in Cuba. If you do not have this you will have to buy health insurance from the local provider, or you will be denied entry to Cuba.
Avoid Unforeseen Costs
If your funds are unlimited then you might not take out travel insurance, however, the avoidance of unforeseen costs is why we all buy travel insurance. It means we have the peace of mind that if something goes wrong, and there are additional costs to bear – like an emergency flight home or medical costs, or your luggage gets lost or stolen – that its covered and you don’t have to pay the cost yourself.
Serious Crime is low, but Robbery Can Occur
Serious crime and levels of robbery are very low when they do occur it tends to be opportunistic. It’s necessary, always, to be aware of your surroundings and protect valuables. We always travel with a portable safe from Pacsafe and secure our valuables in it in the room when we leave.
Our 15 litre Pacsafe can fit two laptops, two kindles and a camera, passports and money in it. We locked our valuables inside it when snorkelled and dived from beaches in Cuba (and padlocked it to a tree!) and also left it in our rooms in our Casa Particulars too.
Cuba is primilary a cash-based society
Cuba is primarily a cash-based society, ATMs do not always work for every traveller’s debit and cash cards, so tourists tend to travel with more cash than in other countries. The potential for petty theft and pickpocketing is higher because f this. Ensure that your case is safely locked away (use something like the Pacsafe for this) > Read more about Cuban currency here.
Safe Drinking Water isn’t always available
The general rule in Cuba is that you should avoid drinking tap water in Cuba. While the local population may drink the tap water, your stomach might not be as resilient. Tap water in Cuba is treated with chlorine to kill bacteria, and so it usually tastes a little bit like swimming pool water.
In many parts of Cuba it is possible to buy bottled water (although we don’t recommend this – its much better for the environment to take a filter water bottle – with you and save the environment and money. It’s much safer than ending up with travellers diarrhoea and ruining your holiday!
Cuba has a high risk of dengue fever and the Zika virus
You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes as Cuba is classified as having a risk of dengue fever and the Zika virus. While Havana health facilities are better than other areas of Cuba if you need to be evacuated for medical reasons then a hospital stay can cost US$200 a day.
Road Conditions in Cuba Can be Dire
Road conditions in parts of Cuba can be pretty dire. While there are occasional weather situations that affect this, like hurricanes, for instance, the primary reason for poor road conditions is the lack of maintenance.
In 2019 there were 29 traffic accidents per day in the first 3 months of 2019.
The main roads in Havana are generally well maintained, but smaller streets tend not to be. There’s a lack of road lighting at night and lights on vehicles aren’t always what you’ve come to expect at home. Add to that, that Cuban cars tend to be very old and often in poor condition without 21st-century safety equipment.
You’ll also find many pedestrians, farm equipment, bicycles and horse-drawn vehicles on more rural roads – as well as areas that are unfenced and where livestock roams free.
Adventure Activities Are Higher Risk
Do you plan on hiking, diving, horse-riding or biking when you visit Cuba? These activities come with higher risks of injuries than sitting on the beach and are classed as higher risk by insurance companies.
Flight Delays and Cancellations are possible
Hurricane season in Cuba runs from June until November, which can mean flash floods and landslides as well as the hurricane itself. If you’re caught in a Cuban hurricane, then you can expect the loss of power, communications and water. Flights are likely to be delayed or cancelled.
Risks of Travelling to Cuba
The risks of travelling to Cuba are no different from other countries and islands in the Caribbean area. Depending on the time of year that you travel hurricanes could be an issue, but the risks of Cuban travel include, but are not limited to
- Health – dengue fever and the Zika virus are present
- Lack of safe drinking water
- Poor road conditions
- Flight cancellations and delays
- Adventure activities carry risks – like diving
- Cash society means more likelihood of opportunistic pickpocketing
Why do you need travel insurance for Cuba?
Some people never buy travel insurance and it is possible to anywhere without travel insurance, mostly, if you so choose. Apart from Cuba, where the government mandates that you must have health insurance prior to entering the country. You may be lucky, and you may not be asked to provide evidence of your travel insurance, but if you are asked and you don’t have it, then you’ll either have to buy it on the spot at the rates quoted, or you’ll be denied entry.
Travel insurance is there for you to pay for the unknown. The cost of hospital and doctors bills if you get sick, replacement items if your gear gets stolen, the cost of flying you home if you need to be repatriated, or if events with family members mean that you need to return home.
Do you need special travel insurance for Cuba?
Yes. Cuba is usually included in the group of countries that include the USA and the Caribbean, which attract higher insurance premiums, usually due to either the higher cost of medical assistance or the difficulties of providing more advanced medical support in smaller communities.
It’s extremely important to check the small print of your policy to ensure that your policy covers you for, for instance, diving if you plan to dive.
What do you need to take into account when buying Travel Insurance for Cuba?
There are a number of things you need to take into consideration when buying travel insurance for Cuba. We’ve detailed these below.
The activities you plan to undertake
Cuba is a unique location to visit. You won’t necessarily find all the adventure sports and activities that you would in other Caribbean locations – but you will find boat trips, diving, snorkelling, bicycling, rock climbing and horse riding.
If you plan to undertake any of these activities, then you need to ensure that it’s covered on your insurance.
Where you are when you take out the insurance policy
Most travel and health insurance companies only provide insurance if you are leaving on your trip from your home address. Other require that you have been resident in that country for six months or more, you will likely also have to be registered with a local doctor.
We found this out when we started our travels in 2014 – have returned from 4 years working in the USA, we were not registered with a doctor and had been in the country 6 days not 6 months! World Nomads to the rescue with our policy that we took out, and then renewed while we were on the road.
So if you’re already on the road or find yourself living a nomadic lifestyle I really recommend that you take a look at World Nomads for your travel insurance for Cuba.
Your age and the age of travellers on the same policy
If you’re 55 or old, then you’ll need to review your travel insurance provider. Many companies change their policies at this age and you need to ensure that you’re covered. Nigel turned 56 this year and luckily for us, World Nomads is one of the companies that continues to provide policies for those aged over 55. And those under 55. Their flexibility is superb.
Pre-existing medical conditions
If you live with and are travelling with existing medical conditions then you’ll need to declare them, otherwise, if something happens related o that condition while you’re in Cuba then your insurance won’t cover it. It’s also worth checking to see if you need to declare if you’re had surgery in the last 12 months, regardless of what hat surgery was before you buy your travel insurance policy.
FAQS on Cuba Travel Insurance
Is medical insurance mandatory in Cuba?
Yes. You may be denied entrance to Cuba if you’re unable to provide proof of your medical insurance.
What happens if I don’t have medical travel insurance when I arrive in Cuba?
If you arrive in Cuba without travel health insurance or with a policy that is invalid then you can buy a policy at the airport where you enter Cuba. You should bear in mind that this is unlikely to be as comprehensive as the policy that you buy before entering the country. It is also only likely to cover the medical bills you incur while in the country and you’ll need to check what repatriation is cover in case that is required.
PIN FOR LATER
Final words on Cuban Travel Insurance
We had no issues travelling Cuba. Our travels took us from Havana to Baracoa in the far west of the country. We took many buses, we hiked, we scuba dived, we snorkelled. We stayed in Casa Particulars, ate street food, drank some great Cuban cocktails and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in Cuba. We travelled on endless Viazul buses, we took taxis and colectivos that ran out of fuel and spewed fumes into the car. We did, however, have a comprehensive insurance policy – and learned from other trips where we have had to claim on our insurance that it is well worth it!
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