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 August 2023, 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.
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 just in 2022 already.
I get to see countless airports, cities and countries and everywhere I go I try to get connected immediately on arrival. Buy a local prepaid sim card is to me one of the best ways to get data on your phone but now in 2023 I also use a lot of e-sim cards.
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, Europe, Asia 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.
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.
Traveltomtom recommends buying a sim card at Dubai Airport on arrival! Simple, easy, fast and you are straight away connected on arrival. Prices in stores in the city are the same as prices for sim cards at Dubai - DXB International Airport.
It is difficult to determine the best prepaid sim card for Dubai. There are only 2 mobile internet providers and their 4G/5G network coverage is pretty much the same as well as prices for tourist sim cards.
Sim cards for tourists in Dubai are expensive! It doesn't matter if you buy a sim card from Etisalat or from Du, expect to pay around $4 per GB.
If you are a fan of e-sim cards then there are some great options for you especially for those who do not use that much data. An e-sim card for Dubai with 1 GB data you can already get for $8.5 USD. See below for more info and where to order.
A great alternative is an international sim card. Check out Traveltomtom's review and comparison of the best international sim cards for traveling in 2023. 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. In general phones bought in Europe, Asia and Australia are unlocked, phones from the USA are often locked.
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.
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
Click here for more info or to order this Dubai sim card directly online!
This international sim card for the UAE 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.
Best e-sim cards for Dubai
Another option is to order an e-sim card for Dubai on the internet. 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! An e-sim card is the easiest way to get connected when traveling to Dubai.
These Dubai e-sim card deals are data-only sim cards valid in the UAE only:
- 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 online.
The above data-only e-sim cards from Burj Mobile are valid in the UAE only. Burj Mobile operates on the 4G/LTE network of Etisalat.
On another website I found the following international e-sim card deals that also work in the United Arabic Emirates and 70 more countries:
- 3 GB for 30 days = $24.9 USD
- 5 GB for 30 days = $34.9 USD
- 6 GB for 15 days = $39.9 USD
Click here to order the above international e-sim card deals for the UAE.
Also for using e-sim cards your phone need to be unlocked and even more important make sure your phone is e-sim card compatible. Great thing is that 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.
If you are flying to Abu Dhabi then check my detailed guide for buying a sim card at Abu Dhabi Airport in 2023.
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.
You can also buy sim cards for Dubai online. These international sim cards cover multiple countries
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, 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 August 2023. 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
- 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 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! 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 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.
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 at every tourist destination in the UAE. Du has slightly better network coverage in 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 2023
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 we can conclude that Virgin Mobile has better deals for people that need a lot of data. For 150 AED ($41) you get 3 GB data per day for 7 days, that is a total of 21 GB.
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 is the best prepaid sim card in Dubai in 2023 for tourists.
It is a though decision to determine the best prepaid sim card for Dubai as prices for prepaid sim card plans and 4G/5G network coverage are basically the same for DU and Etisalat.
In my case I got once got an Etisalat prepaid sim card for Dubai and they promise you Careem (Uber) discounts. 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.
E-sim cards for Dubai are actually a great way to get connected for your trip to Dubai. They are equally expensive but at least you do not need to swap sim cards, go to a shop or buy a sim card at the airport after a long flight. Therefore Traveltomtom also recommends some of the e-sim cards for Dubai. Especially for travelers that just need 1 or 2 GB data to stay connected. E-sim cards for Dubai already start from $8.5 USD, which makes them the cheapest way to stay connected when traveling to Dubai.
How to get from Dubai DXB Airport to the city
The time table on the above photo is old. Sorry...
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 August 2023 I have visited more than 155 countries, so many more to go.
Enjoy your trip to Dubai!