There are no particular health concerns for travelers to the Cayman Islands. It is one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean. The best and most comprehensive health care facilities can be found on Grand Cayman.
General Availability of Health Care
No shots are required prior to travel to the Cayman Islands. While Grand Cayman has extensive medical facilities, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac have only small clinics. If someone becomes seriously ill or injured on the two smaller islands, he or she will be airlifted to George Town. Grand Cayman also has a decompression chamber. All victims of scuba-diving accidents in the Cayman Islands are taken immediately to this facility.
It's easy to get over-the-counter medicine on Grand Cayman, but more difficult on Cayman Brac or Little Cayman. If you'll be visiting the two smaller islands, stock up on whatever medication you think you'll need.
Pack prescription medications and prescriptions in your carry-on luggage. Many people try to slip drugs such as cocaine into the Cayman Islands (or pick them up there). Drugs are often placed into a container for prescription medication after the legal medications have been removed. Customs officials are well aware of this type of smuggling and often check medications against prescriptions if they suspect a passenger is bringing illegal drugs into or out of a country. Carry written prescriptions in generic, not brand-name, form (as local pharmacists may not recognize foreign brand names), and keep all prescription medications in their original labeled vials.
Sun Exposure -- The Cayman sun can be brutal. Wear sunglasses and a hat, and use sunscreen liberally. Limit your time on the beach during the first day. If you do overexpose yourself, stay out of the sun until you recover. If you experience extended periods of fever, chills, headache, nausea, or dizziness following overexposure to the sun, see a doctor.
Bugs & Bites -- One of the biggest menaces is the "no-see-ums," which appear mainly in the early evening. You can't see these gnats, but you sure can feel them. Mosquitoes are also a nuisance. Window screens often fail to keep these critters out, so carry bug repellent.
What to Do If You Get Sick Away from Home
Finding a good doctor in the Cayman Islands is not a problem, and all of them speak English.
When you travel abroad, you will often have to pay all medical costs upfront and be reimbursed later. Medicare and Medicaid do not provide coverage for medical costs outside the U.S. Before leaving home, find out what medical services your health insurance covers. To protect yourself, consider buying medical travel insurance. Be aware that the Cayman Islands and the U.K. do not have a mutual insurance agreement; though the islands are part of the British Commonwealth, British visitors are not entitled to free treatment under the British health system, and will be charged in the Caymans for any services rendered. For advice for U.K. citizens on healthy travel and medical insurance, see www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad.
Very few health insurance plans will pay for medical evacuation back to the U.S. (which can cost US$10,000 and up). A number of companies offer medical evacuation services worldwide. If you're ever hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, MedjetAssist (tel. 800/527-7478; www.medjetassistance.com) will pick you up and fly you to the hospital of your choice virtually anywhere in the world in a medically equipped and staffed aircraft 24 hours day, 7 days a week. Annual memberships are US$225 individual, US$350 family; you can also purchase short-term memberships.
If you suffer from a chronic illness, consult your doctor before your departure. Drugstores and pharmacies are not plentiful, but adequate. They stock most generic drugs; however, if you are on special drugs, it is best to arrive in the Caymans with an adequate supply and not count on local pharmacies. At Cayman hospitals, you will need to be covered by health insurance -- or else be prepared to pay in cash or with a credit card.
Contact the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT) (tel. 716/754-4883 or 416/652-0137 in Canada; www.iamat.org) for tips on travel and health concerns and for lists of local doctors. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (tel. 800/CDC-INFO [232-4636]; www.cdc.gov) provides up-to-date information on health hazards by region or country and offers tips on food safety. Travel Health Online (www.tripprep.com), sponsored by a consortium of travel medicine providers, also offers helpful advice on traveling abroad. You can find listings of reliable medical clinics overseas at the International Society of Travel Medicine (www.istm.org).
The following government websites offer up-to-date health-related travel advice.
- Australia: www.smartraveller.gov.au
- Canada: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index_e.html
- U.K.: www.healthy-travel.co.uk
- U.S.: www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad
Crime & Safety
Violent crime is rare in the Cayman Islands, but petty thefts, pickpocketing, and purse snatchings occasionally occur. There have been incidents of sexual assault, some reportedly involving the use of so-called "date rape" drugs, such as Rohypnol. To avoid being the victim of a crime, visitors should exercise common sense and take basic precautions, including being aware of their surroundings, not walking alone after dark or in remote areas, and using reasonable caution when offered food or beverages by strangers. Also, gays and lesbians should be aware that discrimination based on sexual orientation remains an issue in the Caymans .
The loss or theft of a passport abroad should be reported immediately to the local police. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for tips on dealing with this and similar situations. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402; via the Internet at www.gpo.gov/fdsys; or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at www.travel.state.gov.
Safety & Security for Scuba Divers
On average, one American citizen per month drowns or suffers cardiac arrest while snorkeling or scuba diving in the Cayman Islands. These deaths are often attributed to tourists overestimating their abilities given their training and physical fitness, or ignoring preexisting medical conditions potentially exacerbated by snorkeling or diving. Know and respect your limits. Inexperienced or first-time divers should obtain proper training, and may wish to undergo a physical examination before diving. Divers Alert Network (tel. 800/446-2671 or 919/684-4326; www.diversalertnetwork.org) insures scuba divers.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.