You may be fully vaccinated and ready to jet off to the tropics for some sun, water sports or just to lounge on the pristine sandy beaches. You’re not alone. So far in 2021, Caribbean countries account for nine of the 20 most popular travel destinations, according to data from Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison provider. Direct flights and inexpensive accommodations are fueling the trend.
Before you pack your beach-chic resort wear and flip-flops, be sure you’re up to date on current travel insurance mandates. It’s likely been over a year since you’ve been to the Caribbean, and since then the pandemic has impacted travel protocol. “Many countries that started requiring travel insurance are Caribbean countries, in an effort to encourage safe tourism,” observes Steven Benna, a spokesperson for Squaremouth.
If you’re planning a trip to the islands for the first time, be aware that even before Covid-19 some countries required visitors to have travel medical insurance, to stem a tide of mounting unpaid medical bills from tourists.
“Even before the pandemic, many countries were taking steps to protect themselves from unsettled medical bills from foreign travelers,” says Benna. “Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, several more countries began implementing travel insurance requirements specifically due to an increased risk of requiring medical treatment while traveling.”
Some mandate a specific amount of travel medical insurance, and others require that you must have a travel insurance policy to cover Covid-related medical expenses specifically.
There are also a few Carribean destinations that require tourists to purchase government-issued medical coverage. Popular spots like Aruba, The Bahamas and Jamaica currently require tourists to buy government-issued medical insurance.
But don’t worry, be happy that you can have a Caribbean dream vacation if you meet entry requirements for the destination. Keep in mind, these requirements are valid as of October 2021. Be sure to double-check requirements before traveling.
Here’s what you’ll need.
Purchasing travel insurance to visit Aruba is mandatory. All travelers visiting the island must purchase Covid-19 travel insurance from the Aruba government.
The travel insurance policies provide coverage for up to $75,000 in medical expenses related to treatment of Covid-19. All travelers visiting Aruba are required to buy the Aruba Travel Insurance policy within 72 hours before departing for a trip. The cost is $15 for those age 15 and over. Coverage for children age 14 and under is free.
To gain entry, you must complete The Bahamas Health Travel Visa form and show proof of a recent negative Covid-19 RT-PC test. Fully vaccinated travelers are exempt from submitting a negative Covid-19 test.
Visitors to The Bahamas must purchase mandatory Covid-19 health insurance. The cost of the insurance is included in The Bahamas Travel Health Visa application fee, which is $40.
To visit Jamaica, you must pay a mandatory travel insurance fee. The $40 fee enrolls you in the “Jamaica Cares” program. This provides $50,000 in coverage for medical emergencies and $100,000 while traveling to and from Jamaica. It includes emergency medical services related to Covid-19 and coverage for hurricanes and other natural disasters affecting the island.
Also, any tourist arriving in Jamaica is required to complete an online Travel Authorization certificate, plus furnish a negative Covid-19 test within three days of arriving in Jamaica.
Other Destinations and Travel Restrictions
“The requirements you must meet to gain entry into a specific destination vary from country to country,” says Benna. “To avoid a situation where you are denied entry, we recommend you check with your destination before leaving home to confirm you meet any specific requirements.”
For other destinations in the Caribbean and beyond, see Squaremouth’s list of countries that require travel insurance.
Required Travel Insurance Usually Limited to Medical Coverage
You might think having the mandated travel insurance required to visit a country means you are fully covered for most mishaps, but that’s not the case.
The mandated insurance is generally only for medical expenses in that country. Travel medical insurance won’t cover all your travel woes, chief among them trip cancellation. Squaremouth says that 77 percent of all travel insurance policies purchased since the pandemic began have included coverage to cancel a trip.
According to Squaremouth, potential cancellation is such a huge concern that there’s a 7 percent increase in travelers willing to pay more for a “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) upgrade. This coverage adds about 50 percent more to the cost of a standard travel insurance policy. It allows you to cancel two days up to departure, for any reason not listed in the base policy, and get a 50 or 75 percent reimbursement. For example, you could make a CFAR claim because you don’t like your destination’s Covid testing requirements—a reason that wouldn’t be covered by standard trip cancellation insurance.
Since the start of the pandemic, Benna says about 12 percent of Squaremouth customers buy the “cancel for any reason” upgrade, compared to about 5 percent prior to the pandemic.
How to Ensure You Have Sufficient Travel Insurance Coverage
If you want to supplement the mandated coverage, consider a policy that includes coverage for the unexpected beyond medical expenses.
“Once you have confirmed you need Covid-19 coverage for a destination, it’s important you know what type of coverage is required,” says Benna. “Depending on your situation, you may want to supplement these benefits with additional coverage to include the trip cancellation benefit or even the ‘cancel for any reason’ upgrade.”
The best travel insurance policies include coverage for:
- Trip cancellation
- Trip interruption
- Trip delay
- Lost or delayed baggage
- Lost or damaged personal belongings
- Emergency medical expenses
- Medical evacuation
The cost of a policy varies depending mainly on the age of the travelers, the trip cost and the coverage levels you’re choosing. Here are travel insurance price examples provided by Squaremouth for a $10,000 trip:
For two 25-year-olds:
- Comprehensive travel insurance plan: as low as $122
- With a “cancel for any reason” upgrade: as low as $415
For two 50-year-olds:
- Comprehensive travel insurance plan: as low as $275
- With a “cancel for any reason” upgrade: as low as $560