Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Direct Travel Insurance and Cuba

I was rather taken aback to read Simon Calder's column in Saturday 22nd November 08 Independent Traveller.

He was writing about the fact that according to Direct Travel Insurance Services, that there are now four nations that are so dangerous that they are no longer covered. The four are quoted Afghanistan, Sudan and Liberia. The fourth "dangerous country" is Cuba!

Looking into this further it would appear that Direct Travel is now owned by the US insurer AIG and consequently as far as the present the US Admiistration is concerned Cuba one of its closest neighbours is "a no go area". Trade restrictions have been in place for over 50 years now and hopefully with President Obama taking over in January 2009 things will improve.

I have just taken a look at the Foreign and Commonwealth website. They mention the "dangers" in their travel summary page (Full information here)

  • The hurricane season - "It runs from June to November. Hurricanes Gustav and Ike struck Cuba in August and September 2008 respectively causing considerable damage to tourism infrastructure and resulting in food shortages in many areas."

  • "Most visits to Cuba are trouble free. 255 British nationals required consular assistance in Cuba in 2006-07. The main types of incident for which they required consular assistance were for replacing lost or stolen passports (51 cases); dealing with deaths (4 cases); and hospitalisations (22 cases); dealing with arrests, for a variety of reasons (5 cases); and difficulties using debit/credit/cashpoint cards and exchanging money as US dollars are no longer legal tender in Cuba"

  • "In view of serious accidents that have involved tourists, you should not use mopeds or three-wheel Coco-Taxis when travelling around Cuba."

  • "Dengue Fever is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year. "

  • "There is a low threat from terrorism."

  • "We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake."

Interesting no mention of the dangers like you would find in the other 3 countries on the list.

I have had annual travel insurance from Direct Travel for many years now (long before they were taken over by AIG) and in fact was off to Cuba last November. I did not cancel the trip because of the article as in fact it came out a day after we should have returned, but because we could not get a car rental for the period in question

It was probably fortunate that we did not go as had we had a claim they probably would not have paid out because we had gone to such a dangerous place! Saying that of course Cuba has thousands of European tourists visiting the country every year. If I do go in 2009, I will have to get my travel insurance from another provider.

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