Traveling to Dubai soon? The first thing I recommend you doing is buying a prepaid sim card for the UAE on arrival. A sim card with data, like most other things in Dubai, is expensive! In this blog post I will tell you everything you need to know about a Dubai sim card for tourists: where to buy one, up to date prices as per July 2022, the best 4G/5G network, my recommendation, a vlog to show you my experiences and info about international and e-sim cards for the UAE.
Visiting Dubai but flying to Sharjah? Here is your specific guide for buying a UAE sim card at Sharjah Airport.
As I am trying to visit every country in the world, I get to see countless airports, cities and countries. Everywhere I go I buy a local sim card to stay connected and see it as a great opportunity to keep other travelers informed about the best deals. That is how I wrote more than 150 local prepaid sim card guides from around the world: Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, USA, London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Canada, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Europe and many more.
Why buying a sim card in Dubai
If there is one place in the world where tourists could go without a local sim card it would be Dubai. There is WiFi literally EVERYWHERE and it is FAST and RELIABLE. The Dubai Mall is actually claiming to have the FASTEST PUBLIC WIFI IN THE WORLD. However, things get a little more complicated if you want to order a taxi on the streets or if you go on a road trip exploring the UAE. Having an internet connection on your phone simply makes life easier.
And what if you are laying on the beach and the hotel WiFi does not reach your beach chair? Simply don't rely on other people and get yourself a local prepaid sim card for Dubai. It is fast and easy... unfortunately it is not super cheap though.
Local sim cards are cheaper than overseas data plans or international travel sim cards. However, some of these international sim cards with global coverage are great deals for when traveling to Dubai. Interested in buying a sim card for Dubai online before your trip and get one shipped to your home address then check out the Dubai sim card deals in the link above.
First off we recommend buying a sim card at Dubai Airport on arrival! Simple, easy, fast and you are straight away connected on arrival.
Normally this is the section where I recommend the best prepaid sim card deal for Dubai keeping in mind the 4G/5G network coverage. In the UAE there is NOT much difference and buying either a DU or an Etisalat prepaid sim card is more or less the same. Both expensive. Expect to pay around $4 per GB.
A great alternative is an international sim card. Check out Traveltomtom's review and comparison of the best international sim cards for traveling in 2022. There are some great sim card deals for traveling to Dubai. These pre-activated sim cards will be send to your home address before your trip.
Make sure that your phone is unlocked as foreign sim cards only work in unlocked phones. If you are not sure about this contact your provider in your home country before your trip to Dubai.
Below you can also find my vlog about buying a sim card in Dubai with more details where to go when arriving at Dubai Airport.
Looking for cool things to do in Dubai? Don't miss the observation deck on worlds tallest building: At The Top, Burj Khalifa! See Dubai from above from floor 148! The Dubai Mall Aquarium is pretty cool to check out and a cool thrilling thing to do in Dubai is the Dinner in the Sky! Check out my reviews in the links above.
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Buying a sim card for Dubai online
Through Simoptions you can now also order a prepaid sim card for Dubai directly online:
- $49.90 USD = 10 GB data in UAE for 14 days
This UAE sim card will be send to your home address and is automatically activated from its first use. That means as soon as the plane touches the ground, you put the sim card in your phone and it starts working. Click here for more info or to order this Dubai sim card directly online!
E-Sim Card for Dubai
Another option is to order an e-sim card for Dubai. That means you don't have to physically swap sim cards, but you will receive a so called e-sim card on your phone. Simple, fast and easy! The e-sim cards are data-only and are offered by Burj Mobile. They operate on both the Etisalat and the DU network, so it guarantees you the best data connection possible.
- 1 GB for 7 days = $15 USD
- 3 GB for 30 days = $45 USD
- 5 GB for 30 days = $60 USD
Click here to directly order one of the above Dubai e-sim card deals online. With an e-sim card you keep your own phone number!
Mobile internet providers in the UAE
Unfortunately there are only 2 mobile internet operators in Dubai: Du and Etisalat. That means no competition and high prices. The UAE is one of the most expensive countries in the world when it comes to prepaid sim cards.
So far I have done research about local sim cards for tourists in almost 100 countries. Even expensive countries like Switzerland, Norway, Finland are much cheaper than Dubai data sim cards! A Dubai sim card gives you little value for money unfortunately and expect to pay around $4 per GB.
Good to know is that voice and video calls are blocked in the UAE with every mobile internet provider. Which means you can not use Facetime, Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp for calling. Sending text messages is no problem!
Where to buy a Dubai prepaid sim card
You can buy Dubai prepaid sim cards for visitors in almost every mall around the Dubai at every Etisalat and Du store. However, we recommend you to buy a UAE prepaid sim card at Dubai Airport on arrival. Traveltomtom checked the prices in malls as well as at Dubai airport and found out that nation wide they offer the exact same data sim card packages and deals.
You will just have to bring your passport when buying a sim card in Dubai as the store will take a copy and register it on your name.
Buying a sim card at Dubai Airport DXB
In the beginning of the article I already said that it is best to buy your UAE sim card at Dubai Airport DXB. At every terminal you will find multiple Dubai sim card sellers which makes buying a sim card at Dubai Airport a simple process.
For my research finding the best prepaid sim card for tourists at Dubai Airport I checked out all the selling points. Luckily the prices for Dubai sim cards are THE EAXCT SAME at every terminal. So no matter which terminal you arrive at DXB Airport, you will find the same Dubai tourist sim cards.
Dubai Airport Terminals 1,2 and 3
There are 3 terminals at Dubai Airport. Terminal 3 is used for all Emirates and Qantas flights and is within walking distance to Terminal 1, which handles most other intercontinental flights. There is also a 5-minute shuttle bus between Terminal 1 and 3.
Terminal 2 is pretty far away and not attached nor connected to Terminal 1 and 3. You will need to take a taxi to get to Terminal 2. All FlyDubai and other low-cost airliners are handled in Terminal 2 at DXB Airport.
At every terminal you will find the following shops that sell Dubai prepaid sim cards for tourists:
- Virgin Mobile
When buying a sim card at Dubai Airport at Terminal 1 expect long lines! Terminal 2 and 3 aren't that busy usually.
Prices UAE sim cards in Dubai
As I mentioned before there are only 2 mobile internet operators in the UAE. However, there is also Virgin Mobile in the UAE and they operate on the DU network.
Du prepaid sim cards
Du Dubai offers a couple different prepaid sim card deals for tourists, all valid for 28 days:
- 49 AED = 2 GB data + 30 flexi minutes - $13
- 99 AED = 6 GB data + 30 flexi minutes - $27
- 139 AED = 10 GB data + 30 flexi minutes - $38
- 189 AED = 20 GB data + 20 flexi minutes - $51
Flexi minutes means that you can use them for either local calls or international calls. Du offers its costumers unlimited voice and video calls through the following apps: BOTIM, HiU, C'ME, Voico UAE. Keep in mind that video calls are blocked in the UAE, so no Whatsapp, Messenger and Facetime calls.
Du now also offers an unlimited data sim card for Dubai for 299 AED ($81 USD) valid for 10 days. For the latest Du prepaid offers check their website.
Etisalat prepaid sim cards
Etisalat also offers several Dubai prepaid sim card deals valid for 4 weeks:
- 49 AED = 2 GB data + 30 flexi minutes - $13
- 79 AED = 4 GB data + 30 flexi minutes - $22
- 125 AED = 10 GB data + 120 flexi minutes - $34
- 200 AED = 20 GB data + 525 flexi minutes - $54
- 319 AED = Unlimited data + 100 flexi minutes - $87
Etisalat offers its costumers also several discounts through an app called Smiles. The most eye catching discount is the 100 AED Careem credit. However, in reality it means 20% off with a maximum of 25 AED per ride. Sales trick, but ok, Careem is like Uber so very handy and a reasonable discount! For the latest Etisalat prepaid offers check their website.
Virgin Mobile Dubai
Virgin Mobile is a so-called MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) which means they operate on the DU network. Virgin Mobile sim cards for Dubai used to be the best-buy as they offered great prepaid sim card deals, but those days are gone:
- 150 AED ($41) = 21 GB data (3 GB/day) + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 7 days.
- 200 AED ($54) = 40 GB data (4 GB/day)+ 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 10 days.
- 305 AED ($83) = Unlimited data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 10 days
- 405 AED ($110) = Unlimited data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 15 days.
On top of these short term sim card deals they also have the following prepaid sim card packages available for 4 weeks:
- 189 AED = 7 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes - $51
- 299 AED = 15 GB data + 200 minutes + 50 int. minutes - $81
- 357 AED = 22 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes - $97
- 420 AED = 28 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes - $114
- 656 AED = 50 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes - $179
It is not difficult to conclude that the Virgin Mobile sim card prices are much higher than Du and Etisalat and therefore alone already I would not recommend buying a Virgin Mobile prepaid sim card for Dubai.
The last option for buying a prepaid sim card in Dubai is Kitmytrip. You will find this store at Dubai Airport and they are an official reseller of DU prepaid sim cards. They offer the exact same sim card deals as the official DU store.
Above you can see the Kitmytrip Du sim card deals and below you see the Etisalat sim card deals.
Kitmytrip offers a wide range of discounts coupons for some of the best things to do in Dubai: Dubai Mall Aquarium, Burj Khalifa Observation Deck, The Dubai Ain - Worlds Highest Observation Wheel, etc. If these Dubai activities are on your itinerary, it is definitely worth checking out Kitmytrip and buying a Dubai sim card from their store.
Free sim card Dubai Airport
Yes that is true! Nowadays you get a free sim card at Dubai Airport! At passport control the Customs Officer will hand you back your passport including a package with a free Du Dubai sim card, which is activated and can be used by plug and play. Just put it in your phone and enjoy 1 GB free data for 24 hours.
After 24 hours you will have to top up with one of the above mentioned prepaid sim card packages to use the sim card.
If you go through the automated passport scanner at customs, you won’t be handed a free sim card! You will have to go to a booth with an officer to get your free Dubai sim card.
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Best 4G/5G network in UAE
Great thing about traveling in the UAE and Dubai is that there is 5G almost everywhere. Super fast mobile internet is waiting for you! To find the best mobile network in the UAE I compared the UAE network coverage maps.
5G coverage map Du Dubai
5G coverage map Etisalat Dubai
We can clearly see from the above network coverage maps for Dubai that Etisalat has a slightly much better network than Du. That said for most tourists who stay in and around Dubai there is no difference between both networks. Are you going off the beaten path in the UAE than Etisalat is the best prepaid sim card in Dubai for tourists!
Best prepaid sim card in Dubai for tourists in 2022
All in all after comparing the 4G/5G networks in the UAE and the prepaid sim card prices we can conclude that Virgin Mobile has better deals for people staying just a couple days in Dubai and need a lot of data. For 150 AED ($41) you get 3 GB data per day for 7 days. But if you are staying longer than 7 days OR if you are looking for just a little bit of data to order Uber or browse on the internet on the beach then DU and Etisalat are the best prepaid sim card in Dubai in 2022 for tourists.
It is a though decision to determine the best prepaid sim card for Dubai as prices and network coverage are pretty much the same for DU and Etisalat. It kind of comes down to which discounts you prefer.
In my case that is the Careem taxi app credit that was appealing to me. Careem is the same as Uber and works fine in Dubai. Therefore personally I did choose an Etisalat prepaid sim card for Dubai. However, it was NOT working.
I had to download another app for obtaining the Careem discount codes and then when applying them to my rides it didn't work. I appealed but no one could help me. I think these codes are only valid in case you are a first time Careem user.
How to get from Dubai to Airport to Airport
The time table on the above photo is old. Sorry...
The best way to get into Dubai from DXB Airport is by Metro. The Metro operates directly from Dubai Airport and gets you to most places in the city. The Metro operates between 5.00 am and 1.30 am and on Friday and Saturday even till 2.30 am. There is a metro station at Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.
Dubai Airport Terminal 2 is unfortunately not connect to the Dubai Metro network. The nearest Metro station from Terminal 2 is Abu Hail, which is about 5 minutes away by taxi. There are several bus stops just outside Terminal 2.
Taxis in Dubai all operate by meter and are reliable, but you can also use taxi apps like Careem and Uber. Using a taxi from Dubai Airport to the city is my preferred mode of transport, but in peak times these taxi apps can be expensive. There is also an airport taxi stand outside the terminal with good prices. If you are with more people it is definitely worth taking a taxi.
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May you have further question please leave me a comment below and I am happy to help.
Looking for travel inspiration? Check my Instagram account @traveltomtom! Be careful this could create some serious wanderlust as I am attempting to travel to every country in the world and as of July 2022 I have visited more than 135 countries, so many more to go.
Enjoy your trip to Dubai!