Traveling to Dubai soon? Make sure to stay connected and don't waste money on high roaming costs. Get yourself a prepaid sim card for Dubai or even easier, order an e-sim card. Like most other things in Dubai, sim cards for tourists are expensive, but still much cheaper than overseas data roaming plans.
In this complete guide I will tell you everything you need to know about Dubai prepaid sim cards for tourists: where to buy a sim card, up to date prices as per January 2024, the best 4G/5G network, my recommendation, the best e-sim cards for Dubai, a vlog to show you my arrival and experiences buying a sim card at Dubai International Airport, info about international sim cards for the UAE and more.
Being a full time nomadic travel blogger on the road now for more than 10 years I am constantly figuring out the best ways to stay connected when getting to a new country. On my journey to visit every country in the world I traveled to 62 different countries in 2022 and 34 countries in 2023. So imagine how many prepaid and e-sim cards I used over the last two years.
I get to see countless airports, cities and countries and everywhere I go I try to get connected immediately on arrival if I don't have an e-sim card yet. Buying a local prepaid sim card is one of the best ways if you use a lot of data but I try to use as many e-sim cards as possible, just because it is so convenient to be connected instantly as the plane lands.
Therefore on Traveltomtom you can find already more than 200 sim card guides from all around the world: Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, USA, Bali, Turkey, Bangkok London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Canada, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Shanghai, Europe, Asia and many more.
Traveltomtom also wrote complete guide for the best e-sim cards for traveling to Dubai in 2024.
So next time you are planning your upcoming adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid and e-sim card advice for your next holiday destination. Bookmark me!
If you don't want to use an e-sim card then Traveltomtom recommends buying a sim card at Dubai Airport on arrival. It is easy and fast and you are straight away connected. Tourist sim card prices at the airport are the same as in phone stores in the city.
However, keep in mind that local prepaid sim cards are more expensive than e-sim cards. An Airalo e-sim card for Dubai already starts from $8.5 USD and a Nomad e-sim card for Dubai with 10 GB costs only $22 USD. An Etisalat or Du prepaid sim cards with 10 GB data costs around $34 USD.
It is difficult to determine the best prepaid sim card in Dubai. There are only 2 mobile internet providers (Du and Etisalat) and their 4G/5G network coverage is pretty much the same as well as their prices for tourist sim cards.
Local prepaid sim cards for tourists are expensive in Dubai! It doesn't matter if you buy a sim card from Etisalat Du or Virgin Mobile expect to pay around $4 USD per Gigabyte.
Therefore Traveltomtom recommends staying connected in Dubai with an e-sim card. It is cheaper and you arrange it already online before your trip to the UAE.
Traveltomtom wrote a complete guide for buying an e-sim card for Dubai including a comparison of the best e-sim cards in 2024.
A great alternative is an international prepaid sim card. Check out Traveltomtom's review and comparison of the best international sim cards for traveling in 2024. These are physical prepaid sim cards for those who don't have an e-sim compatible phone. These pre-activated physical sim cards will be delivered 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. In general phones bought in Europe, Asia and Australia are unlocked, phones from the USA are often locked.
Best e-sim cards for Dubai
The best sim card for traveling to the UAE in 2024 is an e-sim card and not a local prepaid sim card.
E-sim cards are the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Dubai as you can simply order an e-sim card for Dubai on the internet. No more swapping a physical sim cards and no need to visit a sim card store. You will receive a so called e-sim card through a QR code in your email. Simple, fast and easy!
You order an e-sim card for Dubai on the internet, you receive a QR code, scan it, follow the simple steps and within less than 2 minutes you have a UAE e-sim card installed on your phone.
Upon arrival it automatically connects you to an available network and you enjoy data on your phone pretty much when the plane lands in Dubai.
Make sure your phone is e-sim compatible before ordering an e-sim card for Dubai.
For a complete guide about using e-sim cards when traveling to the UAE click on the link and read all my tips and tricks and FAQ about e-sim cards.
There are 3 main e-sim card providers for, all tested and reviewed by Traveltomtom.
Airalo is a trusted e-sim provider that Traveltomtom has used in more than 50 countries around the world. These are the Dubai e-sim card deals from Airalo for 2024:
- 1 GB for 7 days = $8.5 USD
- 3 GB for 30 days = $22.5 USD
- 5 GB for 30 days = $35 USD
Click here to directly order a Dubai e-sim card via Airalo.
The above data-only e-sim cards from Airalo are from Burj Mobile. Burj Mobile e-sim cards are only valid in the UAE. They are not 5G ready and they operate on the 4G/LTE network of Etisalat. Incoming and outgoing calls are not supported.
SimOptions is a trusted e-sim card provider that offers normal e-sims as well as international e-sim cards. The Orange Holiday World eSIM is valid in 124 countries:
- 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 for more info or to order a SimOptions e-sim card for Dubai.
The SimOptions e-sim cards are data-only and incoming and outgoing calls are not supported.
Nomad is a game-changer when it comes to Dubai e-sim cards. They are the first e-sim provider that offer e-sim cards for Dubai that are 5G ready.
Local prepaid sim cards in Dubai charge around $4 USD per Gigabyte. Nomad has an e-sim card for Dubai that charges only around $2.2 USD per Gigabyte.
Here are the Nomad e-sim card plans for Dubai in 2024
- 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.
Be aware that you can only use e-sim cards if your phone is unlocked and even more important make sure your phone is e-sim compatible. Great thing is that with an e-sim card you keep your own phone number!
You can not buy an e-sim card for Dubai on the internet when already in Dubai. The UAE Telecom Regulator has blocked this since October 2023. If you arrived already in the UAE then you have to use a VPN to order an e-sim card.
For a much more detailed guide about using an e-sim card for Dubai click on the link and check out my comparison of the best e-sim cards for traveling to Dubai, including everything else you need to know.
Why buying a sim card for 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.
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.
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. There is also Virgin Mobile, a so called MVNO that operates on the Du network.
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 sim card
Du, Virgin Mobile or Etisalat Store
You can buy Dubai prepaid sim cards for visitors in almost every mall around the Dubai at every Etisalat, Du and Virgin Mobile store. It is very easy and everyone in the UAE speaks fluent English.
Dubai International Airport
However, Traveltomtom recommends you to buy your prepaid sim card for Dubai on arrival at Dubai Airport. Prices for tourist sim cards are the same all over the UAE. There is no price difference between stores in malls and the ones at Dubai International Airport.
If you are flying to Abu Dhabi then check my detailed guide for buying a sim card at Abu Dhabi Airport in 2024. For more details about buying a prepaid sim card for Dubai at Dubai International Airport check below.
When buying a prepaid sim card in Dubai you will need to bring your passport. A copy of your passport will be taken in the phone store and your new Dubai sim card will be registered on your passport number.
As mentioned before it is very easy to buy a sim card for Dubai on the internet. In fact, an e-sim card for Dubai is the cheapest way to stay connected. Check out my guide for the best e-sim cards for traveling to Dubai for more detailed info.
There are also international sim cards cover multiple countries, see more below.
Buying a sim card at Dubai Airport DXB
In the beginning of the article I already said buying your UAE sim card at Dubai Airport DXB is very convenient. At every terminal you will find multiple Dubai sim card sellers which makes buying a sim card at Dubai Airport a simple process.
There is free WiFi at Dubai Airport and it works very good. Here is the outcome of a speed test.
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 as well as in the shops in the malls across Dubai. So no matter which terminal you arrive at DXB Airport, you will find the same Dubai tourist sim card prices.
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.
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 prepaid UAE sim cards
As I mentioned before there are only 2 mobile internet operators in the UAE. However, there is also Virgin Mobile, a so-called MVNO and they operate on the DU network. Prices for prepaid tourist sim cards constantly change. Traveltomtom does its utmost best to keep all the information as up to date as possible.
These are the latest sim card plans as per January 2024. Prices are in Dirham: 1 AED = $0.27 USD and $1 USD = 3.67 AED.
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 USD
- 99 AED = 6 GB data + 30 flexi minutes - $27 USD
- 139 AED = 10 GB data + 30 flexi minutes - $38 USD
- 189 AED = 20 GB data + 20 flexi minutes - $51 USD
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 USD
- 79 AED = 4 GB data + 30 flexi minutes - $22 USD
- 125 AED = 10 GB data + 120 flexi minutes - $34 USD
- 200 AED = 20 GB data + 525 flexi minutes - $54 USD
- 319 AED = Unlimited data + 100 flexi minutes - $87 USD
Etisalat offers its costumers also several discounts through an app called Smiles. For the latest Etisalat prepaid offers check their website. 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 and only for new costumers. I tried it and it was completely useless, it didn't work at all for me! Sales trick! Careem is like Uber in Dubai. I was pretty disappointed with this whole discount thing from Etisalat. In the end I wasn't able to use anything because there were restrictions on everything. So my review about this Smiles app from Etisalat and its discount is: USELESS, a complete WASTE of time, energy and effort.
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 are a great choice for heavy data users.
- 21 GB data (3 GB/day) + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes valid for 7 days = 150 AED - $41 USD
- 40 GB data (4 GB/day) + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 10 days = 200 AED - $54 USD
- Unlimited data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 10 days = 305 AED - $83 USD
- Unlimited data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 15 days = 405 AED - $110 USD
On top of these short term sim card deals they also have the following prepaid sim card packages available for 4 weeks:
- 14 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes = 189 AED - $51 USD
- 30 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes = 299 AED - $81 USD
- 44 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes = 357 AED - $97 USD
- 56 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes = 420 AED - $114 USD
- 100 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes = 656 AED - $179 USD
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! 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 for tourists, which is activated and can be used instantly. Just plug and play. 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 and you will also have to register yourself with your passport. It is fairly easy though, just follow the steps which are on the sim card package that you got from the immigration officer.
If you go through one of the automated passport scanners 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 sim card for Dubai.
Be aware that the free sim card you get at Dubai Airport is automatically connected to your passport number. So when putting it in your phone you verify your passport number and only if it matches you are able to use the 1 GB free data for 24 hours.
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.
Du 4G/5G coverage map
Etisalat 4G/5G coverage map
From the above network coverage maps for the UAE we can conclude that there is pretty much a 5G signal in every tourist destination in the UAE. Du has slightly better network coverage when you travel off the beaten path in the UAE.
That said for most tourists who stay in and around Dubai there is no difference between both networks.
Best prepaid sim card in Dubai for tourists in 2024
All in all after comparing the 4G/5G networks in the UAE, the international sim cards, the e-sim cards for the Dubai and the Dubai prepaid sim cards that you buy on arrival in Dubai Traveltomtom come to the conclusion that the cheapest and best value sim card for Dubai is an e-sim card from Nomad.
This e-sim card gives you 10 GB data for just $22 USD, cheaper than a local prepaid sim card from Du or Etisalat. This e-sim card also supports 5G, but is a data-only e-sim card.
Traveltomtom used this Nomad e-sim card for Dubai on his very recent trip and ran a speed test. The outcome is very promising and a confirmation that this is the best tourist sim card for traveling to Dubai.
However, not all phones are e-sim compatible. Therefore Traveltomtom also concludes that Virgin Mobile has great Dubai prepaid sim card plans for travelers that need a lot of data. For 150 AED ($41 USD) you get 3 GB data per day for 7 days, that is a total of 21 GB data.
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 either DU or Etisalat will also do the job and they have prepaid sim card deals for tourists with 2 GB data for 49 AED which is $13 USD.
Which one is better a DU or an Etisalat sim card? It is a though decision to determine the best prepaid sim card for Dubai. Even after my comparison I simply found out that there is very little difference. Prices for prepaid sim card plans and 4G/5G network coverage are basically the same for DU and Etisalat.
Because they are simply cheaper than local prepaid sim cards Traveltomtom recommends buying an e-sim card for Dubai.
Also for travelers that just need 1 or 2 GB data to stay connected. E-sim cards for Dubai already start from $8.5 USD, but for $21 USD you get 20 GB data for 30 days. I told you the cheapest way to stay connected when traveling to Dubai is an e-sim card.
Check out my complete guide with everything you need to know about Dubai e-sim cards and a comparison of the best e-sim cards for traveling in Dubai in 2024.
Buy a prepaid sim card for Dubai online
Is your phone not e-sim compatible then check out the following option.
Arrive prepared in Dubai with an international prepaid sim card. You order them online and a physical prepaid sim card will be delivered to your home address. You put this sim card in your phone and it automatically connects to an available network upon arrival in Dubai, basically when the plane lands you are instantly online.
Through SimOptions you can now also order a physical prepaid sim card for Dubai:
- 10 GB data in the UAE for 14 days = $49.90 USD
Click here for more info or order this international prepaid sim card for Dubai directly online via SimOptions.
This international sim card for the UAE will be delivered 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.
How to get from Dubai DXB Airport to the city
The cheapest 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 very reliable, but you can also use taxi apps like Careem or Uber. Using a taxi from Dubai Airport to the city is my preferred mode of getting to and from DXB Airport, but in peak times these taxi apps can be expensive and it is better to use a metered taxi. 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.
Im sure the above tips for getting connected in the United Arabic Emirates on your trip to Dubai were helpful. If there is anything you are still unsure about please reach out to me and I happily answer your questions. Also if you are just looking for Dubai travel tips.
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 January 2024 I have visited more than 155 countries, so many more to go.
Enjoy your trip to Dubai!