Why Caribbean Travelers Should Consider Buying Travel Insurance

Weather, illness can make the up-front investment worthwhile

••• © soccerkrys via Flickr

If you’re traveling, you should at least consider buying travel insurance, which can not only protect you if your trip gets canceled for reasons out of your control, but also will cover your medical expenses if you get hurt or sick while you’re away from home.

Caribbean travelers face a few particular hazards that, while unlikely to affect your trip, may be worth getting insurance for, just in case.

Here are some examples, along with information on the type of coverage offered by Travel Guard, a leading provider of travel insurance:

1. Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

Hurricane season in the Caribbean lasts from June to November, and while the odds are slim that a storm will affect your trip, it can happen.

In the event of a hurricane or other unforeseen severe weather, travel insurance such as that offered by Travel Guard provides coverage under its Trip Cancellation and Interruption benefit. If your trip is cancelled for a reason covered in your policy (read the fine print or contact your insurance agent for details), the insurer will refund the pre-paid, forfeited, non-refundable trip costs, up to the limit of coverage.

If the resort where you plan to stay is damaged because of a storm and cannot accommodate you (or provide comparable accommodations), your nonrefundable costs will be reimbursed.

If a storm directly affects your travel arrangements or accommodations, you are entitled to Trip Cancellation or Trip Interruption benefits. For example:

  • an airport is closed due to high winds
  • you are forced to evacuate your hotel/resort
  • the road you are traveling is impassable due to high water

If the airport where you are scheduled to arrive or depart is closed due to a hurricane or weather event, travel insurance will cover the expenses incurred if your trip is delayed, and will cover reasonable, additional accommodations and travel expenses until travel becomes possible.

The strength of the storm isn't what determines your coverage, it's the impact it has on your travel plans. So, for example, a rainstorm that floods your hotel might be covered, but you will not get compensation if a hurricane blows through but doesn't force an evacuation or other travel-related hardship.

Important Note: Hurricane coverage is not effective unless the insurance policy is purchased at least 24 hours before a storm is named, so buy your travel insurance early!

2. Injuries and Tropical Diseases

Caribbean countries and resorts spend big money each year trying to protect visitors (and residents) from insect-borne tropical diseases like malaria and yellow fever. But as any experienced traveler knows, you can’t avoid every insect bite, especially when you’re out enjoying the natural beauty of the islands.

Travel is also about new experiences, some of which carry risks, such as engaging in adventure sports like ziplining or off-roading.

Your medical insurance doesn't always travel with you, so if you get hurt or sick while traveling, you may be forced to pay upfront before being treated. Or, you may not feel comfortable receiving treatment in the area where you are traveling because health facilities are not up to the standards found back home.

In the Caribbean, quality of care can vary widely, from world-class to relatively primitive. Travel Guard (like other insurers) offers travel medical expense and emergency-evacuation coverage plans that will help determine the best hospital for your needs and will transport you to the hospital of your choice, or home.

Plans also cover any qualified accompanying medical expenses you may incur. If you break your leg while jet-skiing, for example, and you're required to elevate it for your trip home, travel insurance may cover the cost of a first-class seat on the plane to accommodate you.

3. Cruise Travel Travails

In many Caribbean destinations, visitors are far more likely to arrive by cruise ship than air. Cruising has many benefits, but flexibility of schedule isn’t one of them. And once onboard, you’re pretty much stuck on the boat until it reaches a port unless there’s a severe emergency.

Insurers like Travel Guard offer some benefits that can be very useful when cruise-related problems occur, such as:

  • Help finding a flight to meet your ship at its next port of call if flight delays cause you to miss your embarkation. Your policy also may cover the costs of the extra flight.
  • Medical evacuation off the ship if you become seriously ill while onboard and need immediate medical attention at a hospital.
  • Help getting an emergency prescription filled if you forget to pack necessary medicine before boarding.
  • Assistance locating lost luggage and getting it caught up with your cruise, if possible. If it's delayed, your insurance will pay for your necessities until your luggage reaches you.

4. Passport Problems

Until 2009, most Caribbean countries did not require a passport. However, that is no longer the case unless you are a U.S. citizen traveling to Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, so having the necessary identification is of utmost importance when traveling in the Caribbean.

If you forget your passport, Travel Guard can help arrange to have the passport express-shipped to you if you are still in transit in the U.S. If your documents get lost or stolen, companies like Travel Guard can help you replace important documents and credit cards and help you arrange for cash transfers, too.