Travel photography is a joy when everything works. I'm fortunate. Most of the time, my trips have little more than a minor disruption and I never considered why you need travel insurance. Now I'm glad I bought it for my next trip.
My Cuba Trip With Santa Fe Photographic Workshops
For the past few months, I've been looking forward to a trip to Cuba with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. They're a reputable photography workshop company and also seem to be the go-to place for photographers who want to visit Cuba under the “People-to-people educational exchange” program. The trip itself isn't a workshop, but Santa Fe has a schedule of trips with many well-known photographers as leaders.
Travel insurance is a requirement to join the trip. Here's how they put it in the information packet I received:
Travel And Medical Insurance
It is required that you purchase travel insurance for your program in Cuba that covers trip cancellation should you have a medical problem that would now allow you to travel, lost baggage, missed connections, medical and dental emergencies, and air evacuation. Seasoned travelers know that travel insurance is one of their best investments when traveling abroad.
I did as they said and I bought travel insurance. It's a percentage of the amount you spend on your trip. To be honest, I wouldn't have purchased the insurance if it were only recommended, not required. That could have potentially cost me thousands of dollars.
Cuba Shuts Down U.S. Travel Visas
That is the headline of this article in The Hill about Cuba's recent decision to stop all travel, except for humanitarian aid. Although this was a surprise to me, it's actually not surprising to those who have watched this issue for a while.
As the article mentions, this is fall-out from a decision announced last year by the bank that handles the transactions that control visa deposits. M&T Bank of Buffalo wants out of the business and no other U.S. bank seems to want to pick up the slack.
That's because it's a bureaucratic nightmare while Cuba is still on the list of nations that sponsor terrorism. Not that Cuba actually sponsors terrorism, but it's on the list. From what I've read, the U.S. regulatory policies governing transactions for visa deposits to a nation on that list are so cumbersome that it's just not worth it. No wonder M&T wants out.
Cuba's decision to cut-off travel is because there is no U.S. bank handling these transactions.
In the end, all of this geo-political, global financial wrangling has me in very severe doubt as to whether I'll get to see Cuba in a few weeks or not. I'd bet on “not” right now, but I'm awaiting word from the team at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.
Travel Insurance Coverage
At this stage, I'm waiting for clear word from the folks at Santa Fe to understand how this news impacts the trip. Seems ominous to me, but I could be wrong. I prefer to be optimistic, but experience has taught me to question everything.
Even if the tour is ready to continue, there are still a number of things that can go wrong.
- The trip depends upon a charter flight. What if they have a different opinion about the validity of traveling to Cuba than the tour operator?
- Weather is crazy these days and may impact your travel.
- What if you plan to visit a place and learn of a terrorist or other scary event? You may want to cancel your trip if you don't feel safe.
- You get hit by a bus or laid up with the flu.
Those are just a few things that may screw up your trip and cost you money if you don't have travel insurance.
When I think about travel insurance, I think about foreign travel. Yet, some of the same issues I just listed happen here in the USA. We just had a terrorist attack in Boston last year. The weather happening right now is screwing up travel across the USA for millions of people. Getting sick or injured is an unpredictable event for most of us.
In some cases, the loss may not be a big deal. A couple hundred bucks for a flight to Miami? I'm not buying travel insurance for that. In many cases, the airline will give you credit for another flight. However, this issue in Cuba is making me really grateful I have travel insurance as part of my plans. I think I'll do it for every major trip I plan in the future, as well.
How many of you get travel insurance before you take a trip? Any positive or negative experiences that would make you reconsider? Please let me know in the comments.