Are you planning your trip to the United Arabic Emirates and flying to Abu Dhabi? Wondering what is the best way to stay connected abroad? This is your complete guide for buying a sim card for the UAE at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Find out where to buy a prepaid sim card, up to date prices as per May 2023, my recommendation, the best e-sim cards for the UAE, a vlog about my arrival and experiences, information about international sim cards and more.
Being a full time nomadic travel blogger the first thing I do when I travel to a new country is buying a prepaid sim card to get connected. It is mostly the cheapest way to get data on your phone. It avoids high roaming costs and you don’t need to struggle with slow overseas data roaming plans. Other options are e-Sim cards and international sim cards, but more about them later.
As I am also on a mission to travel to every country in the world you can find already more than 200 sim card guides on Traveltomtom from all over the world: Dubai, Europe, Germany, UK, Italy, France, USA, New York, Miami, Canada, Bangkok, Thailand, Bali, Saudi Arabia and many more.
Traveltomtom recommends buying a Virgin Mobile sim card at Abu Dhabi Airport if you use a lot of data, if you just need a couple GB’s Etisalat or DU will both do the job.
Prices for sim cards at Abu Dhabi Airport are the same as if you buy a prepaid sim card in one of the Etisalat or Du retail stores in the malls in Abu Dhabi. Therefore Traveltomtom recommends buying a sim card at the airport to get instantly connected for your trip to Abu Dhabi.
Prepaid sim card deals for the UAE are the exact same in Abu Dhabi as in Dubai as I also wrote an article for buying a sim card for Dubai in 2023.
Is Abu Dhabi one of your stops of a bigger trip than you should also look into global travel sim cards. Check out my comparison of the best international sim card for traveling abroad in 2023.
Best e-sim cards for UAE
The easiest way to stay connected these days is an e-sim card. Traveltomtom uses and recommends e-sim cards for its convenience but they are more expensive.
No more swapping physical sim cards or visiting a phone shop. Get your e-sim card directly online in just a couple steps. Order online, receive a code, apply the settings and you are all connected.
If you use a lot of data e-sim cards are more expensive compared to local prepaid sim cards for Abu Dhabi.
Check out the following e-sim card deals for the UAE:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $8.5 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $22.5 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $35 USD
Click here to directly order an e-sim card for the UAE online or find more info in the link.
The above e-sim cards are from Burj Mobile and they operate on the 4G/LTE network of Etisalat.
Another website offers different e-sim cards for Abu Dhabi. These are international e-sim cards and valid in over 80 countries:
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $24.9 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $34.9 USD
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.9 USD
Click here to order one of these international e-sim cards for Abu Dhabi.
For more info about e-sim cards for the United Arabic Emirates check out my article with the 10 best e-sim cards for the UAE in 2023.
Arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport - AUH
Airport arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) are much more laid-back compared to its crazy busy neighboring airport Dubai (DXB). AUH Airport is much smaller and navigating through the airport is not that overwhelming.
Also the waiting lines at Abu Dhabi Airport are not that long in general. Depending on the situation I sometimes use Abu Dhabi Airport for traveling to Dubai. A Taxi from Abu Dhabi Airport to Dubai costs about $100 USD.
After you left the plane you will be directed to immigration. If you have a new passport from one of the eligible countries you can use the e-gates, which makes entering the UAE even faster. The baggage reclaim hall is rather small with low ceilings and can be a little busy if many flights arrive at the same time, but in general it is easy going.
Already at the luggage belts you can buy a prepaid sim card for the UAE, more about that later. After picking up your luggage you walk past the duty free into the arrival hall which is pretty small as well. On your left side there is a cafe and a convenience store and on your right side there are more sim card shops as well as the car rental desks.
Where to buy a sim card at Abu Dhabi Airport
As I just mentioned there are already sim card sellers at the luggage belt. You can find a desk of Etisalat as well as a desk of Virgin Mobile between luggage belt 3 and 4. The guys from Etisalat are pretty annoying hassling every passenger walking past to buy an Etisalat sim card. Even when they are already helping other costumers.
If you are intended to buy a Virgin Mobile prepaid sim card then this is your only chance, because if you walk through the customs baggage check and get to the arrival hall you can’t go back into the luggage claim area.
In the arrival hall there are two more mobile internet operator stores: Du and another Etisalat which also sell prepaid sim cards for the UAE for tourists.
Prices UAE prepaid sim cards at Abu Dhabi
Prepaid sim card prices and packages constantly change. Traveltomtom does everything in its power to keep information as up to date as possible. The below prices are updated in May 2023. Your input is appreciated.
As of May 2023: 1 AED = $0.27 USD and $1 USD = 3.67 AED.
Virgin Mobile Luggage Belt 3-4
Virgin Mobile has special UAE tourist sim cards:
- 21* GB data + 30 minutes + 20 international minutes for 7 days = 150 AED - $40.8 USD
- 40* GB data + 30 minutes + 20 international minutes for 7 days = 200 AED
- 75* GB data + 30 minutes + 20 international minutes for 7 days = 300 AED
*See the above photo for more information.
Etisalat Luggage Belt 3-4
At Etisalat they say that you get a free UAE sim card if you buy a package, but that is with every operator the same, so don’t get too excited. Etisalat offfers the following prepaid sim cards deals valid for 28 days:
- 2 GB data + 30 Flexi minutes = 49 AED - $13.3 USD
- 4 GB data + 30 Flexi minutes = 79 AED
- 8 GB data + 120 Flexi minutes = 125 AED
- 22.5 GB data + 525 Flexi minutes = 200 AED
They also have a prepaid sim card deal with unlimited data in the UAE for 10 days:
- Unlimited data + 100 Flexi minutes for 10 days = 319 AED
For more info see the picture above.
There is also an Etisalat store in the arrival hall where they sell the exact same prepaid sim cards for tourists as at the luggage belts.
DU Arrival Hall
A DU prepaid sim card is also free when buying one of the following data plans valid for 28 days:
- 2 GB data + 30 Flexi minutes = 49 AED
- 6 GB data + 30 Flexi minutes = 99 AED - $27 USD
- 10 GB data + 30 Flexi minutes = 139 AED
- 20 GB data + 30 Flexi minutes = 189 AED
DU also has a prepaid sim card deal with unlimited data in the UAE for 10 days:
- Unlimited data for 10 days = 299 AED
Another reminder that if you want to buy a prepaid sim card in Abu Dhabi city center you will find the exact same packages and prepaid sim card deals at the official retail stores in the malls as at the airport.
Best UAE sim card at Abu Dhabi Airport
As you can see in the above comparison of the prepaid sim card deals in Abu Dhabi the cheapest sim card in Abu Dhabi cost 49 AED, which is $13 USD and you get 2 GB data. Both, Etisalat and DU offer this exact same UAE prepaid sim card deal.
This is a simple but great deal if you are just looking to stay connected on your trip to Abu Dhabi and occasionally use social media apps. But if you are a heavy data user Virgin Mobile turns out to be much cheaper as they give you much more GB’s for the same price.
To find the best prepaid sim card for Abu Dhabi I also compared the 4G/5G network coverage in UAE of Etisalat and DU and came to the conclusion that although Etisalat has the better 5G network, for tourists there is not much difference as every tourist spot in the UAE is covered with an excellent 5G signal on both networks.
Virgin Mobile is an MVNO and operates on the DU network. For more info about the best 4G/5G network in the UAE including coverage maps take a look at my article about the best sim card for Dubai in 2023.
Order an international sim card for Abu Dhabi online
Do you want to arrive prepared in Abu Dhabi or the above simply sounds like too much hassle then you can always choose to order a prepaid sim card for the UAE online before your trip. These international sim cards work perfect for traveling in the UAE.
The sim cards are pre-activated and will be shipped to your home address before your trip and automatically activate from its first use. So it is plug and play when you land in Abu Dhabi. See the following international sim card deal:
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $49.90 USD
Click here to order this international travel sim card for the UAE directly online.
Also a last reminder that you can arrange everything online within just a couple clicks by ordering an e-sim card for Abu Dhabi.
I am sure all the above information for buying a prepaid sim card for the UAE in Abu Dhabi was helpful for your upcoming trip. May you have any more questions, remarks or recommendations then please leave me a comment below and help fellow travelers out.
Curious what it looks like trying to visit every country in the world? Go check out my Instagram account @traveltomtom and follow along. As of May 2023 I have visited more than 155 countries, so still a long way to go.
Enjoy your trip to Abu Dhabi!