Are you planning a trip to Dubai and looking for the best tourist e-sim card for the UAE to stay connected? This is a complete guide with everything you need to know about using an e-sim card for traveling to Dubai including a comparison of the best Dubai e-sim cards for 2024.

Don’t waste money on high roaming charges, read my recommendations below and order an e-sim card for the UAE on the internet and get connected in just a couple minutes. Below you will find up to date prices as per June 2024 and all specifications per e-sim card.

This guide will show you where and when to order an e-sim card for Dubai, a comparison with local prepaid sim cards for Dubai and of course links to directly order your e-sim card for traveling to Dubai online.

IMPORTANT NOTICE!

In October 2023 the UAE Telecom Regulator sent all online e-sim card providers a "Cease and Desist" letter demanding to stop all domestic sales of e-sim cards in the UAE. Therefore as of November 2023 you are unable to buy an e-sim card on the internet if you are already in Dubai.

Therefore Traveltomtom recommends you to buy your e-sim card for Dubai before you board your flight to the UAE.

In case you already arrived in Dubai and still want to buy an e-sim card then your IP Address from the UAE will prevent you from ordering an e-sim card on the internet.

There is a very easy way around this and that is by using a VPN.

Already since 2012 I am traveling the world full time and eventually turned my passion for traveling into a lifestyle and became a full time nomadic travel blogger. That is why I constantly get to a different country and pretty much every week I need to look for a new sim card to stay connected. 

In 2022 I visited 62 different countries and in 2023 I traveled to 34 countries so imagine how many different prepaid and e-sim cards I used the last two years.

In the past I used to buy a local prepaid sim card on arrival in every country, but nowadays I mostly use e-sim cards to stay connected when traveling to the UAE.

Helping other travelers to save money while traveling the world is one of the reasons I started this travel blog. Providing essential travel tips is what made me start writing sim card guides from every country I visited and now on Traveltomtom you can already find more than 200 sim card guides from all over the world.

Of course Traveltomtom also wrote a complete guide for buying a prepaid sim card for Dubai including all info about buying a Dubai tourist sim card at the airport on arrival.

Recently Traveltomtom also started writing specific and in-depth guides for buying e-sim cards: USA, Canada, Asia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Egypt, TurkeyEurope, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Greece, international e-sim cards and many more.

So next time you are planning your adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid sim card and e-sim card advice for your holiday destination.

In this Dubai e-sim card guide I will show you a comparison of all the e-sim card plans for tourists with up to date prices as per June 2024.

After I will explain how e-sim cards work, more about the network coverage and 4G/5G data speed, some FAQ about e-sim cards, the difference between e-sim cards and local prepaid sim cards in Dubai and everything else you need to know about using e-sim cards when traveling to Dubai.

Let me start with giving you my e-sim card recommendation for Dubai. These are my favorite e-sim cards for traveling to Dubai in 2024.

Some links in this article about the best e-sim cards for Dubai are affiliate links. If you buy any product after clicking on an affiliate link I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry this is at absolutely no extra cost to you!

My recommendation

Traveltomtom recommends the following two e-sim cards for traveling to Dubai in 2024: 

1. Airalo e-sim card for $21 USD

  • 10 GB data-only e-sim
  • Valid in UAE only
  • Mandatory registration
  • Valid for 30 days
  • 5G ready
  • Only $2.10 USD per Gigabyte

2. Holiday World eSIM for $39.90 USD

  • 10 GB data-only e-sim
  • Valid in 112 countries
  • Valid for 14 days
  • 4G/LTE
  • $3.99 USD per Gigabyte

The best value tourist e-sim card for Dubai are clearly the Airalo e-sim cards for the UAE. Airalo has more e-sim card plans and they go down as much as $1.75 USD per Gigabyte on their 20 GB data plan for $35 USD.

A good second best is the Orange Holiday World eSIM offered by SimOptions. Their e-sim card for Dubai is more expensive though, but this e-sim card is valid in 112 countries around the world. 

Traveltomtom has in general always very good experiences with SimOptions. 

Both e-sim cards are data-only e-sim cards and incoming and outgoing calls or sms are not supported. 

Is Dubai one of your stops on a trip to Asia then you can also look into getting an e-sim card for traveling in Asia. There are more e-sim cards that cover multiple countries.

There are 2 very important things to check before ordering an e-sim card for Dubai or in general before using an e-sim card.

Unlocked phones only

Make sure your phone is unlocked. E-sim cards only work in unlocked phones. If you are not sure if your phone is unlocked then contact your mobile internet provider in your home country.

In general phones from Europe, Asia and the Middle East tend to be unlocked. Phones from North America are often locked.

If your smartphone is locked that means it does not allow another prepaid sim card or e-sim card to operate in the device. You can easily unlock your phone, but depending on your mobile internet provider you will be charged a fee for unlocking your phone. 

E-sim compatible phones only

Second, and equally important: e-sim cards only work if your smartphone supports e-sim cards, also called e-sim compatible. All newer smartphones support e-sim cards. If you are not sure if your phone is e-sim compatible then simply go to Google and type in your mobile phone model in the search bar and ask if it is e-sim compatible. You will get the answer instantly.

If your phone is NOT e-sim compatible then there is no other solution and you can NOT use an e-sim card for traveling to Dubai.

However, you can still order a sim card for Dubai on the internet before your trip. Check out Traveltomtom’s complete guide for buying a prepaid sim card for Dubai in 2024 or find out everything you need to know about international sim cards for traveling abroad in 2024.

Comparison of the best e-sim cards for Dubai

Buying an e-sim card on arrival in Dubai is now also possible, but only from Virgin Mobile, an MVNO. As per June 2024 the main mobile internet operators Du and Etisalat still only provide physical prepaid sim cards for tourists.

But luckily there are multiple e-sim providers on the internet that sell e-sim cards for Dubai and actually even give you much more value for money. 

Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card for traveling in Dubai from one of the well-known e-sim card providers that have proven to be reliable operators. 

These are the multiple big e-sim card providers tested and reviewed multiple times by Traveltomtom: SimOptions, Holafly, AiraloNomad, etc.

Nowadays, you can buy an e-sim card for pretty much every country in the world. Order directly from one of the above e-sim card providers and instantly receive your e-sim card in your email. But before you buy an e-sim card first read all my tips below. 

SimOptions is the only e-sim provider that also offers international prepaid sim cards for Dubai. These are pre-activated physical prepaid sim cards and will be delivered to your home address before your trip to Dubai and it is plug and play when you arrive in the Dubai. 

Airalo, Holafly and Nomad only sell e-sim cards for Dubai. 

Airalo

Airalo is a very reputable e-sim card provider that is very much recommended by Traveltomtom. Ordering your e-sim card for Dubai through Airalo is done fast and easy. Traveltomtom has used Airalo uncountable times for staying connected when traveling abroad. Very reliable, never an issue and often some of the cheapest e-sim card deals. 

Airalo is in general in many countries one of my top recommendations and also for traveling to Dubai in 2024 Traveltomtom rates Airalo as the best e-sim card.

burj mobile airalo esims for dubai

Here are Dubai e-sim card plans from Airalo for 2024:

  • 1 GB data for 7 days = $4.5 USD
  • 2 GB data for 15 days = $7 USD
  • 3 GB data for 30 days = $9.5 USD
  • 5 GB data for 30 days = $13 USD
  • 10 GB data for 30 days = $21 USD
  • 20 GB data for 30 days = $35 USD

Click here to order an e-sim card for Dubai from Airalo.

The only downside from an Airalo e-sim card for the UAE is that they require a ID verification. This means that as soon as you buy an Airalo e-sim card for the UAE they will ask you to scan your passport or ID for verification before they release your e-sim details. I have tested it and it works very fast, within less than 1 minute I got a confirmation email and I was all set.

The Airalo e-sim cards for Dubai are from Burj Mobile and operate on the 4G/LTE network of Etisalat according to the Airalo website. However in reality these Burj Mobile are 5G ready as I was constantly connected to 5G when in Dubai on this e-sim card from Airalo.

In pretty much all the amazing places to visit in Dubai and everywhere else in the UAE you will find an excellent 5G signal and the data speed is very good. 

For more info about the best 4G/5G network in Dubai check my complete guide for the best prepaid sim card for tourists in Dubai in 2024, including network coverage maps of all the mobile internet providers.

All the Airalo e-sim cards are data-only sim cards without a phone number, so any phone/sms service is NOT supported. An Airalo e-sim card has to be installed within 1 month and after activation the credit validity starts when it connects the first time to a supported network. For more info check out the Airalo website

SimOptions

SimOptions is a very reliable e-sim card provider and Traveltomtom has used SimOptions uncountable times in more than 50 countries around the world. I can totally recommend using SimOptions for ordering an e-sim card.

Why using SimOptions? When it comes to Dubai e-sim cards SimOptions has much better e-sim card plans than Airalo and is therefore also recommended as one of the best e-sim cards for tourists traveling to Dubai.

simoptions esim card plans for dubai 2024

Here are the SimOptions data-only e-sim card plans for Dubai for 2024: 

  • 1 GB data for 30 days = $8.90 USD
  • 3 GB data for 30 days = $21.90 USD
  • 5 GB data for 30 days = $34.90 USD
  • 10 GB data for 14 days = $39.90 USD
  • 10 GB data for 30 days = $59.90 USD

Click here to order a SimOptions e-sim card for Dubai.

Apart from the Orange Holiday World eSIM the SimOptions e-sim cards for the UAE are from their own brand. Unfortunately SimOptions doesn’t specify which mobile network operator they use  in Dubai they use but none of these international e-sim cards for the UAE are 5G ready, so the max data speed on these Dubai e-sim cards from SimOptions is 4G/LTE.

The Orange Holiday World eSIM is different from the other SimOptions e-sims. This international e-sim card is valid in 124 countries, including the UAE.

All the e-sim cards for Dubai  that you can order via SimOptions do NOT come with a phone number and they do not offer incoming/outgoing calls or sms services. The validity of these e-sim cards is 1 year and the credit validity starts instantly after installing the e-sim card, even if you are not in Dubai. For more info check the SimOptions website.

Nomad

Last but not least there is Nomad and they also have amazing Dubai e-sim card plans for tourists. On my last trip to Dubai I also used a Nomad e-sim card to test it out and was surprised that they were even 5G ready. Nomad has definitely one of the best e-sim card deals for Dubai. But since Airalo is $1 USD cheaper for the same plan, I normally use Airalo over Nomad.

nomad esim card plans for dubai 2024

Here are the Nomad e-sim card plans for Dubai: 

  • 1 GB data for 7 days = $8 USD
  • 3 GB data for 30 days = $11 USD
  • 5 GB data for 30 days = $13 USD
  • 10 GB data for 30 days = $22 USD 

Click here to order an e-sim card for Dubai from Nomad.

The Nomad e-sim cards for Dubai are from eSIM Go. These data-only e-sim cards from eSIM Go are 5G ready in the UAE and they use the mobile data network of Etisalat. Incoming and outgoing calls and sms are NOT supported.

As I mentioned, Nomad has one of the best value e-sim cards for Dubai and they go as low as $2.2 USD per Gigabyte. Which is even much better compared to local prepaid sim cards for Dubai, because you will pay around $4 USD per Gigabyte.

Another reason why Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card over buying a sim card in Dubai on arrival.

Traveltomtom tested the Nomad e-sim card on my very recent trip to Dubai and it did not disappoint. Here is the outcome of a data speed test.

nomad dubai esim data speed

It clearly shows that the Nomad e-sim card for Dubai is working on 5G with fast download speed. The upload speed could have been a bit faster, but this is just a moment in time. In general I was very satisfied with the Nomad e-sim card traveling in the UAE.

nomad dubai esim card specifications

The Nomad Dubai e-sim cards have to be installed on your phone within 30 days and after installation its validity starts when it connects for the first time to a supported network in Dubai. Basically when the plane lands. For more info check the Nomad website.

Holafly

Holafly is another well-known e-sim provider but unlike other providers they work with e-sims with unlimited data. However, there is a catch and that is a so-called FUP (Fair Use Policy). More about it later, but it could mean that you suddenly have a very slow data connection for a whole day until it resets.

Here are the Holafly e-sim plans for the UAE with unlimited data per day:

  • 1 day 'unlimited' data = $6 USD
  • 2 days 'unlimited' data = $10 USD
  • 3 days 'unlimited' data = $13 USD
  • 4 days 'unlimited' data = $16 USD
  • 5 days 'unlimited' data = $21 USD
  • 6 days 'unlimited' data = $25 USD
  • 7 days 'unlimited' data = $29 USD
  • 8 days 'unlimited' data = $31 USD
  • 9 days 'unlimited' data = $35 USD
  • 10 days 'unlimited' data = $37 USD
  • 11 days 'unlimited' data = $40 USD
  • 14 days 'unlimited' data = $48 USD
  • 20 days 'unlimited' data = $64 USD
  • 30 days 'unlimited' data = $75 USD 

The Holafly e-sim cards for United Arab Emirates are data-only and incoming and outgoing calls/sms are NOT supported. These e-sims do also not come with a phone number. The Holafly e-sims operate on the 4G/LTE network of Etisalat

You can use a hotspot on the Holafly e-sim cards for the UAE, but it is capped at 500 MB per day.

Why 'unlimited'? Because there is a Fair Use Policy and Traveltomtom has had bad experiences with this in the past. Suddenly your data speed is slowed down for 24 hours because you apparently used too much data. More info later.

If I hate something then it is slow data speed. Therefore Traveltomtom's is not a fan of e-sim cards with 'unlimited' data and therefore it is not my first recommendation when looking for an e-sim for Dubai.

Also, Traveltomtom tested Holafly in another country and was very disappointed with the overall performance. Holafly was using the weakest mobile data network in that country and people all around me constantly had connection but I was pretty much offline for a whole week. Even though we were in big cities, I constantly had to ask for the public WiFi of my hotels, restaurants and bars because my Holafly e-sim was super slow.

Virgin Mobile

On arrival at Dubai International Airport (DXB) you can now also get an e-sim card from Virgin Mobile as per new update in June 2024. These local prepaid sim card plans are available as e-sims as well as physical prepaid sim cards, but you can only buy them on arrival in Dubai, not on the internet.

virgin mobile esim for dubai prices data plans

Here are the prices for their e-sim plans for 2024 valid for 1 month:

  • 14 GB data + 100 minutes + 50 international minutes = 239.4 AED - $65 USD
  • 20 GB data + 200 minutes + 50 international minutes = 299.25 AED - $82 USD
  • 28 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 international minutes = 357 AED - $97 USD
  • 40 GB data + 200 minutes + 200 international minutes = 496.65 AED - $135 USD

Virgin Mobile UAE also has tourist sim cards with unlimited data.

virgin mobile esim for dubai tourist plans unlimited data

  • Unlimited data + 30 minutes + 20 international minutes for 7 days = 300 AED - $82 USD
  • Unlimited data + 30 minutes + 20 international minutes for 30 days = 500 AED - $136 USD

As you can see these prices for local e-sim cards at Dubai Airport are through the roof and therefore Traveltomtom once more recommends ordering an e-sim card for the UAE on the internet and does NOT recommend buying an e-sim card on arrival at Dubai International Airport.

Why did Traveltomtom already used more than 100s of e-sim cards? I told you before that I travel full time and I am on the road constantly. Pretty much every week I need another sim card to stay connected, on average I use about 40 to 50 prepaid and e-sim cards per year.

In fact Traveltomtom is based in Dubai, well, the company, not myself! Therefore I visit Dubai about 3-4 times per year. My last trip to Dubai was in November 2023.

What is the cheapest e-sim card for Dubai?

cheapest esim card for dubai

The cheapest e-sim card for Dubai is an Airalo e-sim for just $4.5 USD. It gives you 1 GB data for 7 days. This e-sim is only valid in the UAE and does not support calling and texting.

Why ordering an e-sim card for traveling in Dubai

E-sim cards are the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Dubai in 2024 and you can arrange everything online in just a couple clicks. No more visiting a sim card shop and swapping physical sim cards. Order online, scan the QR code, follow the steps and you are connected in less than 2 minutes.

The most important reason to get an e-sim card is because we would like to stay connected on our trip to Dubai without wasting money on high roaming costs. Our smartphones are pretty useless without a working data connection. Think about ordering a taxi through an app, finding nearby friends, restaurants and bars. Get directions from Google Maps or simply staying in touch with family back home, check your social media apps on long bus rides or your banking apps when paying contactless.

One of the best things about arriving in Dubai with an activated e-sim card is that you are online as soon as the plane lands. More about when to instal your e-sim card later.

There are so many reasons to stay connected when traveling to Dubai, but the most important reason is that it makes your trip to Dubai so much more convenient and fun!

At the same time we don’t want to waste money on high roaming charges. Many mobile internet operators still charge $3 USD per MB for data roaming, that means just opening the Instagram app will already cost you 20 MB * $3 USD = $60 USD! Not kidding… it still is very common in 2024. 

E-sim cards are the easiest way to avoid high roaming charges!

Overseas data roaming plans

So what about overseas data roaming plans? Well, not recommended! Why? Did you read the small letters at what data speed you can use data roaming? Pretty much all mobile internet operators limit the data speed for overseas data roaming plans, which means you end up with 3G data speed. Do you have the patience to handle 3G? It is frustrating when all around you at pretty  much every amazing tourist destinations in Dubai there is already 5G available. 

Uncountable times (mostly American) travel friends have asked me: “can I use your hotspot? My data roaming plan is so slow, it is barely working!” Trust me, get yourself an e-sim card or an international prepaid sim card for traveling to Dubai. Spend a couple dollars extra and be connected all the time instead of begging for WiFi or a hotspot from friends.

Where to buy an e-sim card for Dubai?

Online

You can only buy an e-sim card for Dubai on the internet through an e-sim card provider. There are multiple e-sim card providers for Dubai. Traveltomtom compared 6 e-sim card providers and concluded that the above mentioned ones (SimOptions, Holafly, Airalo and Nomad) are the best e-sim card providers for traveling to Dubai in 2024.

When buying an e-sim card for Dubai through one of the above recommended e-sim providers you only need your email address and the e-sim card is instantly ready to use after installation. Only the Airalo e-sim cards now require an ID check, Nomad and SimOptions do not require an ID verification.

On arrival in Dubai

There are 2 main mobile internet provider in Dubai: Du and Etisalat. On top of these operators there is also Virgin Mobile, a so-called MVNO.

As per June 2024 Du and Etisalat still do not provide e-sims for tourists, only physical prepaid sim cards. However, as seen in my comparison above Virgin Mobile does now offer e-sim cards for tourists. But as you have seen, at ridiculous prices compared to the Airalo or Nomad e-sims for UAE.

For more info about buying a prepaid sim card for tourists in Dubai in 2024 click on the link to read my complete guide and comparison of all the mobile internet providers in Dubai, including a comparison of the 4G/5G network.

Flying into the UAE and landing in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai international airport then you can buy a tourist sim card for Dubai on arrival at the airport. Only physical prepaid sim cards for tourists are provided at DU and Etisalat shops and at Virgin Mobile stores you can as well get an e-sim card for tourists. 

The easy thing is that tourist sim card prices are the same in every store around Dubai, no special tourist prices at the airport.

When to order/activate an e-sim card for Dubai?

You can order an e-sim card for Dubai pretty much any time you want. Most e-sim cards have to be installed on a phone within 1 month after purchasing, some even within 1 year, so you have time.

More important therefore is when do you instal/activate the e-sim card. The validity of some e-sims start straight after the installation, other e-sim cards only start their validity when they connect the first time to a supported network.

Traveltomtom advices to instal your e-sim card on the day of departure to Dubai or before. When in Dubai you will need an internet connection to instal your e-sim card. Pretty much every international airport in the UAE has free WiFi so you could use that to install your e-sim card. Just make sure it is a stable internet connection and therefore Traveltomtom advices you to install/activate your e-sim card in your home country. 

So my personal advice is to instal your e-sim card for Dubai before you get into the plane and as soon as the plane lands you will already be connected without any problems.

How do I know all this? Officially Traveltomtom is based and registered in Dubai and obviously I have to travel through Dubai multiple times a year. And guess what, I always use an e-sim card to stay connected, simply because it is cheaper.

For more info about my experiences buying a sim card at Dubai International Airport check out my vlog on YouTube.

Or for more detailed info about the best prepaid sim cards for Dubai, check out my complete guide in the link.

How to activate an e-sim card

Installing and activating an e-sim card is made as simple as possible. Everyone can activate an e-sim card and the instructions on how to are very detailed and will be send to you instantly by email. But wait, it gets even easier. Just scan the QR code.

When you order an e-sim card plan for Dubai you instantly receive a summery of your order including a QR-code after the payment is processed. 

You will see a summary of your e-sim card order including a QR code on your screen and at the same time you will also receive an email with the same QR code. The email contains instructions on how to instal and activate your Dubai e-sim card.

But installing an activating an e-sim card is as easy as scanning the QR code with the same phone where you want to activate the e-sim card on. The QR contains all the information about your Dubai e-sim card.

Once you scan the code you will be guided through a couple simple steps and within less than 1 minute your e-sim card is successfully installed.

Very important is that you are connected to the internet when installing your e-sim card otherwise you will get an error and issues can occur.

Tip: if you order an e-sim card with the same phone where you want to instal the e-sim card on then ask a friend or someone nearby to take a photo of the QR code and then you scan the QR code from his/her phone and start the installation.

Things to know before ordering an e-sim card for Dubai

Here are some general tips for using e-sim cards when traveling abroad. These tips do not only apply for Dubai e-sim cards, but are things you have to know before buying an e-sim card in general.

Make sure your phone is unlocked

To make sure you didn’t miss this, let me say this again: e-sim cards only work in UNLOCKED phones. If your phone is unlocked then you can use any e-sim card without any problems. 

If your phone is locked then ask your mobile internet provider from your home country to unlock your phone before your trip to Dubai. It is likely that your mobile internet provider will charge you a fee for unlocking your smartphone. 

If you are unable to unlock your phone you can look into getting a portable WiFi for staying connected when traveling to Dubai or better… bring a second unlocked phone on your trip to Dubai and use it as a portable WiFi device. 

Which smartphones support e-sim cards?

Another very important thing you have to check before buying an e-sim card is if your smartphone supports e-sim cards. If you have any of the latest smartphones then there is no need to worry, all new smartphones of the well known brands support e-sim cards. 

The fastest way to find out if your phone is e-sim compatible is by asking Google the question: is my (your phone model) e-sim compatible? Simple as that! 

Can I trust these e-sim card providers?

All the e-sim card providers for Dubai recommended above (SimOptions, Airalo, Holafly and Nomad) are reputable e-sim card providers reviewed and tested by Traveltomtom. All of them are licensed third party companies and resellers that partner or work directly with the mobile internet providers in Dubai.

Traveltomtom has successfully partnered for several consecutive years with SimOptions and Airalo. Nomad is a fairly new partner of Traveltomtom, but has so far proven to be a reliable e-sim card provider as well. All e-sim card providers have their own Helpdesk which you can contact may you encounter any problems or in case you want to claim a refund. 

Traveltomtom does NOT sell Dubai e-sim cards, only RECOMMENDS you to use e-sim cards for traveling to the United Arab Emirates. 

Can I keep my phone number from home with a Dubai e-sim card?

Yes, you can and this is for many people a reason to order an e-sim card to stay connected when traveling to Dubai. An e-sim card can be used next to your physical or e-sim card from your home country at the same time. You do not need a dual-sim phone for using an e-sim card. 

So you can have multiple e-sim cards installed on your phone? Yes, no problem at all! 

For example: you can turn off the mobile data from your sim card from home but still use it for texting and calling. Your new Dubai e-sim card you can be used at the same time just for data to ensure you are not wasting money on high roaming costs.

This is also the trick to keep receiving sms for example for OTP (one time password) sms to login to applications.

Switching between physical and e-sim cards is a matter of turning them on/off in the settings. Just always make sure your sim card from home is switched off for data roaming. 

Can I make phone calls with a Dubai tourist e-sim card?

No, unfortunately there are no Dubai e-sim cards for tourists available on the internet that include calling and texting. All the e-sim cards from Holafly, SimOptions, Airalo and Nomad are data-only e-sim cards and any incoming/outgoing calls/sms are not supported. 

Does a Dubai e-sim card come with a phone number?

No, none of the Dubai e-sim cards that you can buy on the internet come with a phone number which also means you can not receive any phone calls or sms.

In the above Dubai e-sim card comparison you can find all the specifications per e-sim card.

Can I use 5G on a Dubai e-sim card?

Yes, the eSIM Go e-sim cards from Nomad are 5G ready and I lately tested it on my trip to Dubai and I enjoyed a 5G signal pretty much everywhere and data speed was above 100 Mbps most of the time. The same counts for the Airalo e-sims, although the Airalo website says 4G/LTE only, I had 5G all the time on my Airalo e-sim when visiting Dubai.

Are there e-sim cards for Dubai with unlimited data?

Yes, the Holafly e-sim cards for UAE come with unlimited data per day. But there is a catch...

E-sim cards for Dubai with unlimited data are not truly unlimited! Make sure the unlimited data is on max data speed. Mostly the data speed is capped after you used X amount of Gigabytes. 

Holafly is an e-sim card provider that sells e-sim cards with unlimited data for the UAE, but does NOT specify what is the exact so-called Fair Use Policy (FUP).

Traveltomtom does NOT recommend Dubai e-sim cards with unlimited data plans. There are always restrictions. And on Holafly sim cards I experienced a reduce in data speed after using more than 2 GB per day. After I contacted support they explained me that I had to wait for 24 hours until my data speed was restored to normal. 

Those 24 hours were a nightmare as my data speed was barely enough to use WhatsApp. Social media was not even loading! 

Again, Traveltomtom does NOT recommend e-sim cards for Dubai with unlimited data. But if you think you will never use more than 2 GB per day, then this might be your favorite e-sim card.

The Airalo e-sim cards for Dubai with 20 GB data for $35 USD for 30 days provide sufficient data in general for a trip to Dubai and there is no real need for an e-sim card with unlimited data unless you want to upload your whole camera roll to Google Drive or iCloud via 4G/5G instead of WiFi.

There are a lot of different specifications per e-sim card. Another reason why I advice you to take a close at my comparison of the best e-sim cards for traveling to UAE in 2024 before choosing your favorite. 

Are e-sim cards the best way to stay connected when traveling to Dubai?

E-sim cards are the easiest and fastest way to get data on your phone when traveling to Dubai, but what is the best way? 

There are 3 ways to stay connected when traveling to Dubai: 

  • Local prepaid sim cards
  • International prepaid sim cards
  • E-sim cards

Let’s compare e-sim cards, local prepaid sim cards and international prepaid sim cards, for you to find out what is your preferred way of staying connected.

Local prepaid sim cards

Normally if you use a lot of data local prepaid sim cards are a cheaper way to stay connected, but not in the UAE. Data is ridiculously expensive in Dubai and there is pretty much no competition. Du and Etisalat are the main mobile internet operators and they offer the exact same prices for data packages. On top of that there is Virgin Mobile as an MVNO, but they are also very expensive.

Local prepaid sim cards for tourists can only be purchased on arrival in Dubai in a phone store or at the airport and NOT on the internet.

More info about the best Dubai sim cards for tourists can be found in my complete guide for buying a tourist sim card in Dubai in 2024. 

International prepaid sim cards

orange holiday world international prepaid sim card for dubai

If your smartphone is not e-sim compatible you can order an international prepaid sim card for traveling to Dubai. Some of them are great for Dubai as well as in all other countries in for example Europe, Americas and Asia and you can easily order them online. 

A pre-activated physical sim card will be delivered to your home address before your trip. You put this physical sim card in your phone and as soon as the plane touches the ground and the sim card connects to a supported network you are online. Plug and play! 

Click here to order an international prepaid sim card for Dubai directly online.

If after visiting Dubai you are traveling onwards in Asia then check Traveltomtom’s list of the best sim cards for traveling internationally in 2024 or the best Asia tourist sim cards in 2024.

E-sim cards

As explained throughout the article there are two different e-sim cards:

  • E-sim cards that you buy on the internet through a third party
  • E-sim cards that you buy in Dubai in a mobile internet provider store

However, as of 2024 Du and Etisalat do still not provide tourist e-sims for tourists. Only people with an Emirates ID are able to get an e-sim card. Traveltomtom personally shopped around in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to find out if e-sim cards were available for tourists and the answer is: NO!

However, as of June 2024 Virgin Mobile announced that they now offer e-sim cards for tourists as well. You can buy a Virgin Mobile e-sim card for Dubai in a Virgin Mobile store or at Virgin Mobile shops at Dubai, Sharjah or Abu Dhabi Airport.

Read all about it in my detailed guide about buying a sim card at Abu Dhabi Airport or Sharjah Airport or if you are interested in watching a vlog about my arrival and buying a sim card at Abu Dhabi Airport then check out my YouTube video.

There is also a vlog about my arrival and buying a sim card at Dubai Airport on my YouTube Channel. 

E-sim cards vs. local prepaid sim cards

Getting an e-sim card is the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Dubai, no doubt! You arrange everything online within just a couple clicks. Right here, right now and you are all set for your trip to Dubai. You arrive prepared and there is no need to visit a sim card shop on arrival in Dubai. As soon as the plane lands, you are online.

But what is cheaper? An e-sim card or a local prepaid sim card for tourists?

When we compare the best Dubai e-sim cards for tourists with local prepaid sim cards for Dubai, it is an easy conclusion that the Nomad e-sim cards are even cheaper than local prepaid sim cards. 

The Burj Mobile e-sims from Airalo go down as much as $1.75 USD per Gigabyte. The physical prepaid sim card plans for tourists from Du and Etisalat will charge you more than $4 USD per Gigabyte. The Virgin Mobile e-sims are not much better either.

Dubai has so called tourist sim cards specially designed for non-residents. Prices for prepaid sim cards start from 49 AED which is around $13 USD, but you only get 2 GB data. If you want a prepaid sim card with 8 GB data that will cost you around $34 USD. 

For more info check out my article about the best prepaid sim cards for tourists in Dubai in 2024

After a long flight you just want to go to your hotel and it is often a big task to go to a sim card store and get connected. With e-sim cards you buy on the internet you are connected as soon as the plane lands. For this convenience Traveltomtom definitely recommends to order one of the listed best e-sim cards for Dubai in the comparison above.

Many reasons why a lot of travelers simply get an e-sim card for Dubai. Faster, easier, less stress and even cheaper depending on how much data you need.

Data Speed

Another difference between a local prepaid sim card and an e-sim card is that e-sim cards are often through a third party, a so called MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator). These MVNO’s operate on the network of one of the main mobile internet operators and basically buy bandwidth.

This may sound a little bit too technical, but what it means is that e-sim cards through an MVNO are the last ones in line when the line is busy. Especially during peak times, the performance of an e-sim cards is less compared to a local prepaid sim card from a mobile internet operator.

Bottomline: the data speed of e-sim cards can be less compared to a local prepaid Dubai sim card.

I am sure some of the above tips for finding the best e-sim card for your trip to Dubai were helpful. I hope that after reading through my comparison, tips and tricks it was easier to make a decision and order your e-sim card for Dubai right away. 

If you still have any questions about e-sim cards then please leave me a comment below. I promise I will try to reply instantly and I am more than happy to help you out finding the best way for you to stay connected.

Curious what the life of a full time nomadic traveler looks like? Go check out my 650K Instagram account or 1.3 Million TikTok account both called @traveltomtom. Follow along with daily updates from around the world about the good, the bad and the ugly about traveling.

Traveltomtom is on the road to 197, meaning I would like to travel to every country in the world. As of June 2024 I have visited more than 155 countries, still about 40 to go, but no rush.

Enjoy your trip to Dubai!