Are you planning your trip to the United Arabic Emirates and flying to Abu Dhabi and wondering what is the best way to stay connected? Get yourself an e-sim card or buy a prepaid sim card at Abu Dhabi International Airport. How?
This is a complete guide for buying a sim card for traveling to the UAE on arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Find out where to buy a prepaid sim card, up to date prices as per January 2024, 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 and I do not yet have an e-sim card is buying a prepaid sim card to get connected. It is mostly the cheapest way to get a data connection on your phone. It avoids high roaming costs and you don’t need to struggle with slow overseas data roaming plans.
In this blog I will also highlight the best e-sim cards and international prepaid sim cards for traveling to the UAE.
As Traveltomtom is 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, Vietnam, Maldives, Pakistan, Oman, Singapore 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.
But let me tell you that e-sim cards for Dubai that you order on the internet are even cheaper. A Nomad e-sim card with 10 GB data only costs $22 USD. A prepaid sim card at Abu Dhabi Airport with 10 GB data cost $34 USD.
Prices for tourist 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 2024.
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 2024.
Best e-sim cards for the UAE
The easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Abu Dhabi in 2024 is an e-sim card. Traveltomtom uses and recommends e-sim cards for their convenience.
No more swapping physical sim cards or visiting a phone shop. Get your e-sim card directly online in just a couple steps.
You order an e-sim card for the UAE 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 in Abu Dhabi it automatically connects you to an available network and you enjoy data on your phone pretty much when the plane lands.
More info and an answer to all your FAQ's in my detailed guide with everything you need to know before ordering an e-sim card for the UAE in 2024.
Make sure your phone is e-sim compatible before ordering an e-sim card for the UAE.
Airalo is a reliable e-sim card provider and Traveltomtom has used them in more than 50 countries around the world. Check out the Airalo e-sim card plans for Abu dhabi:
- 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 for more info or to directly order an e-sim card for the UAE via Airalo.
The above e-sim cards are from Burj Mobile and they operate on the 4G/LTE network of Etisalat. These are data-only e-sims and incoming and outgoing calls/sms are not supported.
SimOptions offers different e-sim card plans for Abu Dhabi. Traveltomtom has been using SimOptions for many years already, never an issue.
- 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 an e-sim card for Abu Dhabi via SimOptions.
Last but not least there is Nomad and they have the best value e-sim card deals for traveling to the UAE in 2024.
Here are the Nomad e-sim card plans for Abu Dhabi:
- 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 Abu Dhabi from Nomad.
Big plus about the Nomad e-sim cards for the UAE is that they are 5G ready.
For more detailed info about e-sim cards for the United Arab Emirates check out my article with the best e-sim cards for the UAE in 2024.
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 January 2024. Your input is appreciated if you have any updated info about buying a sim card in Abu Dhabi.
As of January 2024: 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 - $81 USD
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 2024.
Order an international sim card for Abu Dhabi online
If your phone is not e-sim compatible but you still rather order a sim card for Abu Dhabi on the internet then have a look at the following.
Arrive prepared in Abu Dhabi 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 Abu Dhabi, basically when the plane lands you are instantly online.
Check out the following international prepaid sim card deal from SimOptions:
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $49.90 USD
Click here for more info or to order this international travel sim card for the UAE via SimOptions.
Also a last reminder that you can arrange everything online within just a couple clicks by ordering an e-sim card for Abu Dhabi. Traveltomtom recommends ordering a UAE e-sim card via either SimOptions, Airalo or Nomad.
For more info about UAE e-sims check out my comparison of the best e-sim cards for traveling to the UAE in 2024.
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. If 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 January 2024 I have visited more than 155 countries, so still a long way to go.
Enjoy your trip to Abu Dhabi!
Some links in this article about buying a sim card for traveling to Abu Dhabi are affiliate links. If you buy any of the products after using an affiliate link I earn a small commission. This is at absolutely no extra cost to you of course!