Cuba is highly protective of its national healthcare system, which is why they won't let you in without travel insurance that covers medical. They're doing you a favour anyway, because not only will you be covered for expensive medical claims but you'll also be covered for a host of other travel-related risks.
Airline loses your luggage? Street food didn't get along with your stomach? Hurricane disrupts your travel plans? Travel insurance will cover you for all that and more, so you can enjoy your holiday in peace.
Compare 20+ travel insurance brands for your trip to Cuba
As fragile as Cuba's healthcare system is, Cuba does not want to put any extra strain on it if it can be avoided. That's why they won't let you in without medical cover, and travel insurance is the best way for you to get it.
Since May 2010 travel insurance for the duration of your trip with sufficient medical cover has been a requirement for entry into Cuba.
Five reasons why travel insurance is necessary in Cuba
Travellers to Cuba can also be exposed to a wide range of risks.
Pickpocketing, theft and even assault. These can be problems for travellers, particularly in big cities like Havana. Keep a close eye on your luggage at the airport at all times and avoid packing any highly valuable items in your checked baggage. Make sure your passport and travel documents are secure at all times and avoid wearing expensive jewellery or unnecessarily advertising your wealth.
Cuban roads can be quite dangerous. Signage is poor, road conditions can be atrocious in some parts and you’ll also be sharing the road with pedestrians, bicycles and even horse-drawn carts. Many of the taxis are unlicensed as well.
Motorcycle accidents. You can hire a motorcycle in Cuba, however you are prone to the common risks of motorcycle driving as well as Cuban type road dangers
Food poisoning from street food. Due to lack of proper hygiene sanctions along the street, food can be unsafe for tourists who aren't use to street food.
Animal bites. In particular if you’re going camping or hiking.
Add to that the fact that things can go wrong no matter where you are in the world, from stolen baggage and accidents to unexpected medical emergencies, and it becomes perfectly clear that travel insurance is a must for your Cuban holiday.
Current travel warnings
There are currently no warnings against travelling to Cuba. However, Cuba is currently experiencing transmissions of the Zika virus. Travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites and pregnant women should discuss carefully with their doctor any plans to travel to Cuba.
How much does travel insurance cost to Cuba?
Based on the average cost of policies for a 2 week trip to Cuba. Prices last obtained on October 2015.
Cuba is a nation with a proud sporting history across a range of pursuits, although some of the facilities it has to offer are not up to world standards. Many travellers to Cuba also enjoy participating in a range of adventure sports while in the country, from scuba diving to rock climbing and sky diving. Of course, all of these sports tend to come with a higher element of risk.
A passport of at least 6 months old. A copy of your passport's photo page
Your itinerary. A copy of your planned schedule of flights
Payment of the visa fee. This can be paid by cash, bank cheque or money order and is $60 in person, or $110 if by post
If you need a visa to work or study in Cuba, contact the Consulate of Cuba for further details. Make sure you apply for a visa early, to avoid situations where you need to cancel your trip without travel insurance cover.
A passport of at least 6 months old. This will be checked by officials upon entry
Travellers aged 70 years and older. You must purchase additional insurance from Asistur (Cuban travel insurance provider)
Personal medication. Medication must be transported into Cuba in its original container and have a clear label. Prescription medication must be accompanied by a prescription from your doctor
In early 2015, President Obama relaxed a strict trade embargo that the US had in place against Cuba for more than five decades. As well as affecting commerce and financial dealings between the US and Cuba, this change also relaxed the travel restrictions for Americans who want to visit Cuba.
What does this mean?
While there is still an embargo on travel to Cuba, there are 12 types of travel to the country that are permitted for Americans, including family visits, professional research, journalism assignments, public performance, religious activities and for educational reasons. These rules may apply to Australians who you travel from the US to Cuba.
What about via cruise?
Flights are already available to Cuba from New York and Baltimore, while Cuba has also emerged in recent times as a popular cruising destination. However, there are some restrictions. Americans are usually required to sign up for People to People contact programs similar to any other form of travel form the US to Cuba. This essentially means your trip would be organised as a guided tour from a Cuban based tour company that focuses on the Cuban-American relations. While you may Australian, entering from the US may require you to follow the same rules.
Don't purely rely on ATMs. A common problem faced by foreign travellers to Cuba is difficulty withdrawing cash, typically due to a lack of ATMs and a similar lack of working cash machines
Withdraw money at the airport. Cuban currency is not traded internationally you cannot stock up on cash before you leave home; you’ll have to wait until you arrive in Cuba to get the money you need
Beware of the surcharge for USD. It’s also worth pointing out that, as the US embargo is still in place and efforts are underway to remove it, you’ll still be hit with a huge surcharge (10 per cent) when you convert US Dollars into Cuban Convertible Pesos. It can therefore be cheaper to exchange other currencies for Convertible Pesos, such as Euros, Swiss Francs or Canadian Dollars
Using cards in Cuba
Debit cards are highly recommended when travelling to Cuba as they can be used in outlets stores and to pay for trips to your tour guide. Additionally, Debit cards from both Mastercard and Visa should work with ATMs however any credit cards will not. If you do have a Mastercard Credit Card or a Visa Credit Card, you can withdraw money from Cuban banks such as Cadeca so long as the card is not issued in the US. Have a look to see what options you have when looking for travel money for Cuba.
As Cuba is in the Caribbean, don’t forget the fact that it does sometimes get hit by hurricanes. Hurricane season runs from June to November and while this shouldn’t put you off travelling to Cuba, it’s always good to be well informed and prepared in advance. Travelling during this period can also enable you to access cheaper flights and hotel deals.
Contact your insurer. You can contact your insurer to receive emergency and medical assistance. Many insurance providers offer 24/7 call centres for this very purpose.
Use a pre-paid mobile. Using a landline in Cuba is quite expensive, so the cheapest option is typically to use a mobile, although US cell phone providers do not have any roaming agreements in place in Cuba.
Cuban emergency number. The number for police, fire and medical emergencies in Cuba is 106
Australian embassy. The Australian Embassy in Cuba is located in Havana as shown below.
There are two currencies in Cuba: the CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso), which is commonly used by tourists, and the CUP (Cuban Peso). Be wary of paying for goods with one currency and receiving change in the other currency.
Every traveller needs to pay an exit tax to leave Cuba. From May 2015 onwards, this should be included in the price of your holiday.
Credit cards are accepted in Cuba as long as they are not backed by an American bank.
Be aware of being scammed with bogus excess baggage charges when checking in at a Cuban airport.
You’ll need a valid driver’s licence If you want to rent or drive a car in Cuba.
Hold on to your purse or bag. Especially when in crowded public areas.
Watch your valuables. Don’t leave your valuables unattended in a public place and make sure to keep your wallet in your front pocket.
5 Questions to ask yourself before selecting a travel insurance policy for Cuba
Do you know Cuba? Familiarise yourself with Cuba and the risks you may face while travelling there – this will help determine your insurance needs
How long are you going for? Will a normal travel insurance policy do the trick, or should you consider an annual multi-trip policy or cover offered by your credit card provider?
What will you be doing in Cuba? Will you just be sightseeing or will you be indulging in adventure activities? Remember that there are many activities and events that a lot of insurers won’t cover
Will you be taking any valuables? Do you really need to take your laptop and top-of-the-line SLR camera? If so, remember that most insurers put limits on the cover they offer for high-value items
Do you have any medical conditions? Any conditions that already exist when you purchase a policy may not be covered by your insurer
Travel insurance is an essential requirement when visiting Cuba, and it’s vital that you take the time to shop around for the right policy by looking at features, benefits and exclusions of multiple policies
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