There are many countries around the world where it is dangerous for people to travel. For some countries it is almost impossible to get travel insurance. Countries with particular problems include Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
Direct Travel Insurance Services recently deemed four nations to be so dangerous that they excluded coverage for travel in, to, or through such countries. Three make sense; Afghanistan, Liberia and Sudan. Sister companies offering travel insurance have the same banned list, although they are more subtle by not including them on the country by country list you go to for a quote.
The fourth, Cuba, is a popular island for the hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers who go there. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has no problem with the country and it is not listed on their quite long list of countries to avoid or take care in.
The insurers and their parent never reveal why they make country decisions. The company was fairly recently taken over by huge US insurance group AIG - and that may provide the answer.
The Bush administration hardened America’s stance over Cuba to such an extent that it is very difficult for a US citizen to get a visa – not from Cuba, but from the US, to go there. The US government even threatens to fine or imprison Americans who go there without getting a visa. Cubans welcome visitors as it helps their economy. New president Obama wants to remove the ban and have friendly relations with Cuba.
AIG has recently borrowed $150 billion from the US government to avoid bankruptcy, and in effect the US government now owns 80% of AIG. Direct Travel takes its orders from AIG. AIG deems Cuba an unacceptable risk but refuses to explain why or what they know that our own government does not.
Cuba is as safe a country to visit as most, and there are plenty of insurers happy to cover trips there. Direct Travel’s own online country guide puts risk level in Cuba at ‘low’!
The real message of this story is that throughout time, individual insurance companies and the people who work for them often have blind prejudices on some risks, facts and evidence having no impact on their attitude. If an insurer tells you it wants more money or extra conditions for a trip, never take that as gospel – go and get some other quotes.
Travel insurance: News update: December 2008