Travel insurance guide: Jamaica
Kicking it in Kingston? Everything you need to know about Travel Insurance for Jamaica.
Visitors to Jamaica are drawn to its many natural wonders, resorts and nightlife destinations as well as its reputation as the birthplace of reggae and related attractions for music aficionados. There’s a lot to see and do, but it’s not without its hazards, so Jamaica is best enjoyed with the right travel insurance policy in place.
This guide will help you pick out what to look for in travel insurance for Jamaica and how to choose a policy that works for you.
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- Crime: Take all usual precautions and care to protect your belongings from pickpockets and bag snatchers in Jamaica, but be aware of violent crime in particular and the prevalence of gangs. Firearms are common so avoid confrontation and carrying valuables where possible.
- If you have to bring them, consider extra cover for valuables like electronics, jewellery and cameras.
- Travel insurance policies cover robbery and theft in different ways, so you should know the limits of a given policy when considering how it protects you here.
- Natural disasters: Jamaica is often impacted by hurricanes, as it was by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Hurricane season is from June to November, and can result in landslides, flooding and essential service disruptions, particularly in mountainous or more isolated areas.
- If you’re pre-booking, consider travel insurance for tour cancellation. Weather events can necessitate a rapid change of plan and are entirely beyond anyone’s control.
- Covering yourself for missed flights and delays can be advisable all year round, but particularly during Jamaica’s wet season.
- Road travel: According to the WHO you are twice as likely to be killed in a car accident in Jamaica than Australia. This is largely a result of poorly maintained roads, excessive speeds being relatively normal and the presence of vendors and other pedestrian hazards on the roads.
- Rental car excess travel insurance can potentially save you a lot of money if you have an accident overseas.
- Make sure you know what to do if you have a car accident overseas, and how your travel insurance may help.
- Avoid using Mountain View Avenue to get to and from Norman Manley International Airport, particularly at night. There is a high risk of crime, and in the past motorists have been caught in the crossfire of gang-related violence here.
- Civil unrest: Civil unrest, such as demonstrations and protests, can occur spontaneously and without warning. Monitor local news and government warnings for any unrest occurring at your time of travel.
- Local laws: You should obey local laws and customs while in Jamaica and be aware that penalties, including arrest and imprisonment, are often imposed on travellers who violate laws.
- The Australian consulate can offer limited support in the event of your arrest.
- It is illegal to buy, sell or wear camouflage-style clothing in Jamaica.
- Penalties for drug offenses are severe. Possession of a small amount of marijuana is punishable by imprisonment.
- Homosexual acts are illegal in Jamaica with penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment and hard labour, and public perception towards LGBT individuals is extremely unfavourable.
- Public nudity in non-designated areas, and even indecent language, can lead to arrest.
Not all activities are always covered by your travel insurance policy. It may be a good idea to consider how your travel insurance covers various activities, if at all, on an individual basis. In particular you might want to get cover for:
- Paragliding and parasailing: The stunning beaches are one of Jamaica’s main attractions, and aerial activities are a popular way of taking them in. Local equipment and instructor standards can vary so make sure you have travel insurance if you want to take to the skies.
- Nature walks: Jamaica’s natural scenery means there are an abundance of nature walks to take in around the country. Remember that even guided and packaged hikes are still not without risk, and that medical evacuation might turn out to be a costly necessity.
To get adequate medical attention in Jamaica you may have to use a private hospital or clinic. Private facilities in Jamaica require payment up-front so it’s advisable to that your travel insurance policy can pay up- front. The alternative to this is to pay any costs yourself and then claim back what you can later.
- Serious medical problems in Jamaica may require evacuation to facilities in Miami. The minimum cost of this would be AUD$20,000, so you should ensure that your travel insurance policy covers medical evacuation and repatriation or risk being on the hook for this cost.
- There is only one hyperbaric chamber in Jamaica, near Ochos Rio. If you suffer decompression sickness or a related condition that requires its use you may incur heavy costs. Once again, check for a policy that pays up-front and covers medivacs, and look specifically for scuba diving travel insurance if you plan on taking advantage of this.
In the event of an emergency you should get in touch with local authorities, the Australian embassy, your insurer, family and friends back home or your tour guide or travel provider as applicable.
- Contact the Australian embassy in Kingston for help with legal issues or if you’re unsure where else to turn, but be aware that there is little assistance they can offer if you have broken local laws. Find the embassy at 80-82 Second Street, Port Bustamante, Kingston 13, Jamaica, or call (1 876) 361 1332. For complete consular assistance, including help with passports, you’ll need to contact the Australian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago by calling (1 868) 822 5450.
- Your travel insurance provider should always have a 24/7 claims helpline. Keep their contact details with you while travelling and know how to reach them at any time. In the event of a claimable incident, contact them as soon as you can.
- You will need to provide proof of identity and nationality, such as a driver’s licence and passport, show proof of adequate funds for your stay and to have a return or round-trip ticket rather than just a one-way.
- Australians visiting Jamaica are not required to have a tourist visa, but can instead get an entry card for stays of under six months. You are able to get this at the airport on arrival, or by ordering in advance.
All insurance policies have exclusions, which are conditions where they won’t pay out. Some of the exclusions to watch out for in a Jamaica travel insurance policy include:
- Dangerous pastimes: Hazardous sports and activities, like scuba diving or bungee jumping, are not necessarily covered by all travel insurance policies. It can be advisable to look for exclusions surrounding these, as well as to find a policy that specifically covers risky activities as needed.
- Unsecured possessions: You cannot necessarily expect your travel insurance policy to pay out for lost, damaged or stolen possessions if you have not taken all sensible precautions to ensure their security. Exclusions may include belongings left in unlocked rooms, in plain view in an unsupervised car, or left in a hotel room but not in the safe.
- Failure to obey signs and warnings: If your failure to obey posted signs or warnings has led, directly or indirectly, to a claim, then your insurer may reserve the right to not pay out. Take note of this while travelling in Jamaica and ensure that you do follow posted signs and traffic laws, even if no one else seems to, so you’re still covered.
- Pre-existing conditions: Insurers may exclude pre-existing conditions, but can also include them, with or without extra cost. If you want cover for pre-existing conditions then you should raise this with your insurer.
- Reckless behaviour: Being drunk or under the influence of any mind-altering substance may count as reckless behaviour, and incidents that occur at these times may not be claimable. Regardless of sobriety, you are generally not covered for losses resulting from what could be deemed unreasonable behaviour.
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