“Passport please. Return ticket please. Vaccine certificate please. Health questionnaire please. Travel insurance card please. Thanks and enjoy your flight.”
Wait, what? All that and proof of travel insurance too?
In the good ole days before a worldwide health crisis came along, for many countries you could just grab your passport and go. The list of international entry requirements has gotten longer lately though. For some countries in Latin America, you’ll need to have travel insurance squared away on top of everything else. You’ll need proof of policy in print or on your phone before you head to the Galapagos Islands, Chile, or Antarctica, for instance.
A few years ago, Ecuador tried to pass a law that all visitors needed travel insurance to enter the country. After an outcry from the tourism industry though, they said, “Never mind,” and dropped the idea. After borders closed, governments had a lot more leverage to require what they wanted upon reopening and some of them clearly want to make sure you don’t cost them money by needing hospital treatment on their soil. So they were able to require insurance as a condition of entry without the industry blocking them. After all, keeping the borders closed any longer will kill off even more tourism businesses.
Latin America Countries That Require Travel Insurance
If you’re heading to Latin America from the USA, Canada, or Europe, your most lenient choice is Mexico. There are very few restrictions beyond mask mandates and air travel to Mexico never stopped. Colombia is similar, with borders that are mostly open to any travelers now. Once you get beyond those two though, you’re going to need more items with you to enter, especially if you haven’t had your shots. (Many countries are off limits altogether for travelers who have not been vaccinated.)
The most strict are the Caribbean islands. We don’t cover those in Luxury Latin America, but be advised you’ll need a whole long list of items for many of them, including travel insurance, from the Bahamas down to Aruba. Otherwise, gather up what you need before heading to these:
Costa Rica – If NOT vaccinated, medical insurance coverage of $50,000 plus $2,000 accommodation coverage.
Ecuador – Insurance not needed for the mainland, but required for the Galapagos Islands.
Uruguay – Travel medical insurance with COVID-19 coverage required.
Chile – Travel medical insurance with COVID-19 coverage for a minimum of $30,000 required.
Argentina – Travel/Health Insurance covering assistance and hospitalization for Covid-19 reasons.
Antarctica – $100,000 in medical coverage plus evacuation insurance.
With breakthrough cases still happening, don’t be surprised if this list grows. Three of the last three countries to open are on that list above, so we’ll likely see more caution in the coming months, not less.
Check into the local requirements before your trip is just days away because you may need an insurance upgrade. If you’re flying to Argentina or Chile to board a cruise to Antarctica, you had better be packing a travel insurance card. Your regular health care insurance won’t help you there. You need a robust travel policy that includes medical evacuation–an expensive operation in such a remote area. If you don’t have a policy already that includes this, you won’t be able to go waddle with the penguins.
In some other cases, your health insurance policy may cover you, but you’ll have to dive into the fine print on that. Some do, especially policies that expats carry, but it’s far more common for your regular policy to only cover you in your country of residence. That’s where travel insurance comes in.
Does Travel Insurance Cover Covid-related Issues?
Before this recent crisis, most travel insurance policies had an exclusion for pandemics. They could get away with that because those tended to be isolated and rare. After this one spread around the whole world in a few weeks, however, that changed for almost all companies. They were forced to include coverage for something so widespread.
Read the policy carefully, of course, but the ones you buy from major players will usually have you covered now if you contract the Coronavirus while traveling and need medical care or have to stay put longer than expected. For an example, you can see the coverage for the Allianz plans here at their Epidemic Coverage Endorsement page. What’s below is just a summary, not the full fine print, but in basic terms, you’re covered for the following if contracting the virus:
– Emergency medical care
– Emergency transportation
– Trip interruption compensation if you are singled out for quarantine
– Trip cancellation if you are diagnosed with Covid and can’t go
– Travel delay compensation if you are denied boarding because of testing positive
Shop around and check coverage and price, but this is a situation where buying from some small company you have never heard of could backfire. In Cuba, for example, your insurance provider needs to be on their official list or it’s like you don’t have a policy at all.
I’ve had an annual travel insurance policy from Allianz for years now and though I’ve fortunately never had to make a claim, the cost is rather minimal compared to what I spend on other types of insurance in my life. I get the piece of mind knowing that anytime I’m at least 100 miles from home—like visiting relatives for the holidays—I’m covered and there’s someone available 24/7 to help if needed.
The Cost and Coverage of an Annual Travel Insurance Policy
If you follow that link above, you can get your own quote just by entering your age and state of residence. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the rate. Depending on which tier you choose, the plans normally range from around $225 to under $500 for a family plan—annually, not per month. One of the lower tiers will be enough for most leisure travelers unless you need to go for the very top tier to get medical evacuation coverage up to $250,000 for super-remote areas.
Note that the trip cancellation insurance coverage rises with the different options too though, so if you’re booking a luxury tour costing $10,000 each, you would only get back $2,000 each of that in the middle tier, none of it in the lower tier. (You could purchase trip cancellation insurance in a one-off manner from the tour company or travel agent of course to supplement.) It’s always good to evaluate how the options match up to the kind of traveling you will be doing and how much your luggage is worth. Also, you probably won’t need this for routine medical care anywhere in Latin America because it’s cheap enough to just pay for it out of pocket. It’s when things really go wrong that you’ll want an insurance company with a phone number having your back.
This post is sponsored by our advertising partner Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and we have received financial compensation from the company. As always, all opinions are our own.