A holiday to the Caribbean is for many a once in a lifetime event. Caribbean holidays usually cost a great deal of money and are planned a long time in advance. If you’re travelling from Europe to the Caribbean, you’re investing a lot of your time as well as money. And when we’re on holiday we like to splurge, try different things and invest in special activities. The weather and unforeseen events often cause issues with our planning and even domestic health insurance which may cover US travellers away from home provides little coverage in the Caribbean. A good Caribbean travel insurance policy will cover you for accidents, rescheduled or cancelled plans due to storms and other weather event and even lost or stolen personal items, cash and credit cards.
Why Do You Need Travel Insurance for the Caribbean?
There are a variety of reasons as to why you should take our travel insurance prior to visiting the Caribbean – we’ll try to cover each of them and how you can mitigate your risk while enjoying your vacation whichever part of the Caribbean you choose to visit.
There are mosquitos in the Caribbean. I know this from personal experience. I sometimes think that I should offer myself as a mosquito repellent, because they all gang up and bite me and leave my fellow travellers alone.
There is a risk of Zika and Chikungunya in the Caribbean. Dengue Fever is endemic in the Caribbean. While you should ALWAYS cover up at dawn and dusk and take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitos it is pretty difficult to avoid at best the odd bite.
Health care is expensive here, make sure you have adequate cover to ensure that any mosquito-borne diseases are treated quickly and effectively.
Travel Insurance covers you for Injuries in the Caribbean
Virtually all islands in the Caribbean are popular for snorkelling, swimming, scuba-diving surfing and kite surfing. It is important if you’re planning on undertaking these activities while you’re in the Caribbean that you have travel insurance for water sports cover.
However, it’s not just if you’re in the water that you need to cover for. Having grown up in the UK and been supported admirably by Britain’s National Health Service, it was a shock when we moved to the USA to have to pay a huge amount of money for our healthcare cover. Simple accidents – like my badly broken wrist in July 2018 or problematic Achilles Tendon for Nigel can take a series of treatments, that aren’t covered by your home healthcare. Get an insurance policy that covers you for medical treatment in the Caribbean and also the costs of getting you home, if it’s a serious problem.
Health and medical care in the Caribbean can be very expensive. It may even be that if you need emergency treatment you have to pay for it first and claim back from your travel and medical insurance provider later! We recommend having proof of insurance with you, as the hospital may refuse to treat you.
Avoid Unforeseen Costs
I’ve always viewed insurance for travel as something that I can’t afford to go without. That’s paid off for us big time in recent years. We’ve had 2 emergency returns to the UK, both of which necessitated multiple flights booked at the last minute and a host of cancelled plans. If we hadn’t had travel insurance we would have been out of pocket to the tune of nearly GBP10,000. And ten thousand pounds is not something that we can afford to come up with just like that!
If you have unlimited funds, then you can probably afford not to take out travel insurance for the Caribbean, but its this avoidance of unforeseen costs that is why many of us buy travel insurance. When I got sick in India we didn’t claim – but that’s because my hospital trips, antibiotics and saline drips didn’t get to the minimum claim level. It most definitely would do in the Caribbean!
Caribbean Travel Insurance 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 it’s covered and you don’t have to pay the cost yourself – or at least if you do have to pay then you get the money back.
Serious Crime is low, but Robbery Can Occur
Most of the places that Caribbean tourists travel to are pretty safe and serious crime is low. We’ve just spent 5 days in Trinidad’s Port of Spain, which gets a pretty bad rap in a lot of places – but we never felt unsafe. We were, given express instructions by the Ministry of Tourism officer that we met not to go to a certain area though, and listened to his advice.
We always follow the advice of not flashing cash, leaving valuables that we don’t need with us locked away when we go out on a night, locking car doors when we are driving and ALWAYS having a hand on every bag when we’re on a public bus.
That said, robbery does 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 out valuables inside it when snorkelled and dived from beaches in both the Caribbean and Cuba (and padlocked it to a tree!). > read how to pick the RIGHT portable travel safe for your travels here.
Safe Drinking Water isn’t always available
Much of the Caribbean has safe drinking water, in Antigua, we were told it was safe, but our host in our apartment said she didn’t drink it herself (!). (find out more things you should do BEFORE you go to Antigua and Barbuda) We’ve had the same comments in Grenada and Trinidad & Tobago. If you prefer not to drink tap water when visiting the Caribbean, then bottled or filtered or purified water is available everywhere. We do NOT recommend you buy bottled water. It is SO much better for the environment and your carbon footprint to use a reusable filter water bottle. It will save you a fortune in bottled water – which means that’s more money for travelling – and you’ll save the environment from more single-use plastic.
Even in areas where the tap water is safe we use our filter water bottles – as it tends to be the different minerals in the water that upsets people’s stomach. See our recommedned filter water bottle here. For us, it’s much safer than ending up with travellers diarrhoea and ruining our plans!
The Potholes in some Caribbean Roads are Massive!
As I write this we’ve rented cars and driven in Antigua, (get our guide on what to so in St John’s Antigua here!) St Kitts, Tobago and Trinidad – where you just have to get used to drivers coming, at speed, towards you on YOUR side of the road. This isn’t because I’d forgotten that they all drive on the left here in those islands, but because they’re avoiding potholes. Some of them are enormous. Roads have subsidence. And evidence of previous accidents can be found alongside roads with abandoned cars.
Fewer roads are also lit at nights, so whether you’re driving at night or walking back from a bar, it’s very different to home!
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 the Caribbean? 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 the Caribbean runs from June until November, which can mean flash floods and landslides as well as the hurricane itself. If you’re caught in a hurricane, then you can expect the loss of power, communications and water. Flights are likely to be delayed or cancelled.
Note that if you take out travel insurance you must have it in place PRIOR to a weather event occurring. Many travel insurance companies also require you to be at home in order when you start your trip and take out a policy. That’s not the case with World Nomads and that’s one of the reasons we use them and work with them. Get a quote for Caribbean Travel Insurance now with World Nomads here.
Consider the reasons that your travel might be disrupted – and check that you’re covered, it could be for instance
- Your airport is closed because of the weather
- You need to evacuate because of a hurricane
- You can’t get somewhere because a road is flooded
Risks of Travelling to the Caribbean
The risks of travelling to the countries and islands in the Caribbean area is very similar in each. Depending on the time of year that you travel hurricanes could be an issue, but the risks of Caribbean 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 the Caribbean?
Many people never use travel insurance, they never buy it and they never have problems. It is entirely possible to travel without travel insurance. It’s your choice. Having seen a friend evacuated from a trek in Nepal at the cost of USD$5,000 and personally having had two claims in two years to a total cost of US$10,000 it’s not something that we would consider.
We take out travel insurance, – and have done for our Caribbean trip because we don’t want to bear the cost if we have an injury or get sick and need medical attention. If our gear gets stolen, if we need emergency travel back to the UK, then we’d like to not have unforeseen costs.
Do you need special travel insurance for the Caribbean?
Yes. The group of countries that include the USA and the Caribbean attracts 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. Check out options here.
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 the Caribbean?
There are a number of things you need to take into consideration when buying travel insurance for the Caribbean. We’ve detailed these below.
The activities you plan to undertake
There are a great variety of adventure sports and activities that you can undertake in the Caribbean – boat trips, diving, snorkelling, bicycling, rock climbing and horse riding. There are zip lines, mountain bike trips, off-road trips.
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 the Caribbean.
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. If you are 70 or over, you might find some challenges – but the best way is to ask!
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 the Caribbean 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.
If you’re visiting the Caribbean on a cruise
If your visit to the Caribbean includes a cruise, then you will need specific cruise insurance. You can get a quote for that here.
Final words on Caribbean Travel Insurance
Our Caribbean trip started in Europe, where we took a repositioning cruise with Costa Cruises from Genoa Italy (where the food is amazing BTW), to Guadeloupe. We’ve then been island hopping our way around the chain of islands here. We’re not done yet, but so far we have no reasons to claim on our Caribbean travel insurance thankfully. We are, however, confident in the knowledge that if we do, our insurance company will be there for us!
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