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Posted April 29, 2010 by publisher in Legal Travel to Cuba

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Lisa Bachelor | guardian.co.uk

Travelers to Cuba have been warned they need travel insurance in place before they arrive

Tourists arriving in Cuba as of May 1 will be required to have travel insurance in place before they can enter the country – but confusion reigns over exactly which policies are valid.

The rule, announced by the Cuban government in February, applies to all visitors from overseas and Cubans living abroad, and is designed to make sure holidaymakers have adequate medical cover before arriving on the island.

Anyone entering Cuba from this weekend will be expected to present a copy of their insurance documents on arrival, showing that they have a policy in place which covers the full duration of the trip and includes medical evacuation by air.

Confusion exists because the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs had originally said it would require travelers to have policies from a select list of providers, but since then British insurance and travel companies have struggled to get a definitive list from the ministry.

Steve Diederich, managing director of tour provider Captivating Cuba, said: “Clarification on who these approved insurers are, the cost of policies and the method of payment is proving notoriously difficult to come across.

“This is somewhat typical of Cuba. Much of what appeals about the country – it’s old-fashioned air, its exotic chaos – can also frustrate at times.”

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said it believed the list had been abandoned and that the Cuban government simply required people entering the country to have a policy that included health cover for people visiting the country. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also said it was not aware of a list of insurers.

But travelers will still need to make sure their policy is valid. Some policies do not provide cover for any trip to or through four nations that the underwriters deem dangerous. These include Cuba as well as Afghanistan, Liberia and Sudan. Policies excluding Cuba include those underwritten by Chartis UK, which are sold by companies such as Direct Travel Insurance, Yorkshire bank and Barclaycard.

Travelers who arrive on the island without insurance, or with invalid insurance, will be able to buy a policy from a Cuban insurance company, but the cover is likely to be less comprehensive than many UK-bought policies and could work out more expensive. The Cuban ministry is quoting typical premiums of around £2 a person a day.

The FCO is urging travelers to make sure they have adequate cover from a UK company in place. “The medical facilities in Havana are better than those available elsewhere in Cuba, but it is sometimes necessary to medically evacuate those who require urgent specialist care,” it said in a statement on its website.

“This can be very expensive so you should ensure that your medical insurance covers you for this. If you require medical treatment you will be expected to pay in hard currency; a basic hospital stay can cost as much as £200 per day plus medical expenses.”

Travelers should also make sure their policy covers them for any pre-existing medical conditions. Cuban insurance cover is not likely to provide for this.

Holidaymakers heading to Thailand are also being warned that they risk invalidating their travel insurance after the FCO issued advice against traveling to the country.

It is advising against all but essential travel to the whole of Thailand “due to the increasingly volatile and tense political situation” there.

A number of travel insurance policies exclude cover for travelers where such a warning has been given, and the ABI is urging holidaymakers to check with their provider.

Some policies offer cancellation cover when the FCO publishes advice to not travel. This should cover travelers for “non-recoverable expenses” such as flights and hotels that have already been booked.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on April 30, 2010 by PDM with 12 total posts

    This is copied directly from Air Canada’s Web site:


    Travel to Cuba - Health insurance required

    As of May 1st, 2010, the Cuban government will require that all visitors to Cuba, including Cuban nationals living abroad and persons residing temporarily in Cuba, obtain traveller’s medical insurance as a condition for entry into Cuba.

    Passengers will be responsible for ensuring that the coverage they purchase covers medical costs in Cuba, and is valid for their entire stay in that country. A Canadian health care card will be accepted as proof of coverage, but Canadian travellers should first find out to what extent medical costs incurred in Cuba are covered by their provincial health care plan.

    Although insurance should be purchased prior to entry into Cuba, it will be possible for passengers to purchase it upon arrival in the country.


  2. Follow up post #2 added on May 06, 2010 by CheersTerry with 6 total posts

    As of today (subject to change, of course) this is an up-to-date, fairly accurate wrap-up of the whole mess:

    1.) As I predicted right from the beginning this entire insurance fiasco is basically a non-issue for most tourists. It’s a cash grab aimed directly at Cuban Americans and American tourists, that’s all.

    2.) There is no “List” of accepted foreign insurance companies. There has never been such a “List.” I wish this myth would finally die.

    3.) Any proof of health insurance (even a relatively useless Provincial Health Card from Canada) is technically all you require to satisfy Cuban Immigration. (That said, use the same common sense you would dealing with any bureaucracy - especially a Cuban one - and bring a cover letter or documentation proving you have insurance and that it extends to Cuba.)

    Of course it’s your responsibility to determine if your insurance company extends coverage to Cuba and if that coverage is sufficient to cover your persoanl needs.

    4.) Thus far in Havana, Varadero and Holguin (traditionally the worst airport for bitchy Aduana agents) there has been almost zero enforcement. If you’re one of the very few non American passengers who gets asked to provide proof of insurance you simply show any health insurance card and you’re on your way, no big deal. If you reside in the US then you’re directed to the kiosk selling official Cuban government Asistur Insurance. It costs about 3 CUC per day for the length of your stay.

    Accurate info from real government sources, not blogs or the news:

    i.) http://www.gocuba.ca/client/news/show.php?news_id=17

    ii.) http://www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/report_rapport-eng.asp?id=69000 (Section 4)

    Tranquilo, and have a nice trip.

    Cheers,
    Terry


  3. Follow up post #3 added on May 06, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Great information. Thanks for posting.



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  4. Follow up post #4 added on August 28, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Please see our updated list of approved travel insurance providers in Cuba.



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