Traveling to Dubai soon? The first thing I recommend you doing is buying a UAE sim card for tourists 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 June 2021, the best network and I will also show you which prepaid sim card for Dubai is the best.
I will first explain more about a UAE sim card and where you can buy one in Dubai then I will specifically break down all the info for buying a sim card at Dubai DXB Airport.
Why buying a sim card in Dubai
If there is one place in the world where I 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. 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 sim card. It is fast and easy... unfortunately it is also expensive.
Traveltomtom recommend a DU sim card for traveling to Dubai and the UAE. They have a great network and offer 6 GB data for 100 AED ($27).
Mobile internet providers in Dubai and 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 70 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.
However a buying a local sim card in Dubai is still much cheaper than those recommended international sim cards. Read my article on 'the best' (most of them are still shit) international sim cards for world travelers! Traveltomtom does NOT recommend most of these global sim cards for world travelers.
Best 5G network in UAE and Dubai in 2021
To check which of the 2 mobile operators has the best mobile network I compared both coverage maps. Nowadays 3G is NOT enough, we expect minimum 4G and if possible 5G. Therefore I used the 5G coverage maps in the UAE for Etisalat and Du from nperf.com.
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 much better network than Du. That said for most tourists who stay in and around Dubai there is no difference between both networks.
Etisalat also has the best 5G network in UAE! All around Abu Dhabi and Dubai there is 5G.
Are you going off the beaten path in the UAE than Etisalat is the best prepaid sim card in Dubai for tourists!
Where to buy a Dubai prepaid sim card
There are two options for buying a Dubai sim card for tourists. You can either wait till you get to the city and go to any Etisalat or Du store nearby or you buy a UAE sim card at Dubai Airport. In almost every mall in Dubai you will find an Etisalat or a Du shop so buying a sim card in Dubai is easy.
There is not much price difference for buying a sim card at Dubai city or at the airport. Selling prepaid sim cards in Etisalat and Du stores in shopping malls is NOT big business. The offers are very limited.
I recommend tourists to buy a Dubai sim card at DXB airport!
Bring your passport when buying a UAE sim card in Dubai, you need it for registration!
Buying a UAE sim card in Dubai City vs. Dubai Airport
As I just told you it is advisable to buy a Dubai sim card at Dubai Airport, but in case you missed that opportunity I will also give you the information about the prepaid data packages that are available in any of the Dubai shopping malls.
Prices UAE sim card in Dubai City
My research for the best UAE sim card was pretty simple as there are only 2 mobile internet operators in the UAE. But there is a GREAT ALTERNATIVE NOW! Keep reading...
Du Dubai sim card prices
The Du Dubai prepaid sim card prices at their shops around the Dubai malls are the same as at the airport. They offer a free DU sim prepaid sim card for the UAE which you can top up with 3 data packages:
- 39 AED ($11) = 2 GB data for 28 days.
- 69 AED ($19) = 4 GB data for 28 days.
- 89 AED ($24) = 6 GB data for 28 days.
The same counts for the calling minutes:
- 10 AED ($3) = 30 minutes for 28 days.
- 69 AED ($5) = 60 minutes for 28 days.
- 89 AED ($8) = 90 minutes for 28 days.
All the above prices for a Du sim card can be found in stores around Dubai in for example shopping malls. These are the latest prices as per January 2021, for the latest Du prepaid offers check their website.
Etisalat Dubai sim card prices
At any Etisalat store in Dubai you can buy the following UAE prepaid sim cards for tourists. A Etisalat prepaid sim card cost normally 55 AED ($15) (excl. 5% VAT) but is almost always on offer for FREE!
BE AWARE: the Etisalat prepaid packages are PER WEEK not per month!
Etisalat offers the following prepaid packages:
- WASEL GO M - 25 AED ($7) = 750 MB data + 40 minutes for 7 days.
- WASEL GO L - 50 AED ($14) = 750 MB data + 40 minutes for 7 days.
- WASEL GO XL - 75 AED ($21) = 750 MB data + 40 minutes for 7 days.
Prices are excluding 5% VAT.
Data of the above Etisalat Dubai sim cards is only valid in the UAE. Roaming charges apply if you go abroad. All the above info is up to date per January 2021. For the latest Etisalat prepaid offers check their website.
Best UAE sim card for tourists
Du offers much more value for money compared to Etisalat, which is comparably expensive! Therefore the best UAE prepaid sim card is Du.
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Buying a sim card at Dubai Airport DXB
In the beginning of the article I already said that it is best to buy your Dubai 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.
At every terminal you will find the following shops that sell Dubai prepaid sim cards for tourists:
- Virgin Mobile
- Dubai Duty Free Shops
When buying a sim card at Dubai Airport at Terminal 1 expect long lines! Terminal 2 and 3 weren’t that busy.
Dubai Airport DXB
The Dubai Airport is one of my favorites around the world. Great free wifi, very spacious and fairly smooth to transit. I must say though, it is getting pretty damn crowded nowadays.
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.
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.
This sounds like a winner, but don’t get too excited. Yes the sim card is free but it only comes with:
- 20 MB data
- 3 min calling time
With that credit you won’t even make it to the luggage belt, because as soon as you would look at your phone your credit is gone!
Smart move though from Du Dubai to give a free Dubai sim card to every visitor. But still you will have to top this Dubai sim card with credit otherwise you won’t get anywhere. More about top ups of Du Dubai later in this article.
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 sim card.
Dubai sim card prices at Dubai Airport DXB
Du Dubai prepaid sim card for tourists
The provided free Dubai sim card at customs is a Du sim card, but at any Du shop in the arrival halls of Terminal 1,2 and 3 you get a free Dubai sim card as well. The prices for the data packages per May 2021 are as follow:
- 50 AED ($14) = 2 GB + 30 minutes - valid for 28 days.
- 80 AED ($22) = 4 GB + 30 minutes - valid for 28 days.
- 100 AED ($27) = 6 GB + 30 minutes - valid for 28 days.
The data of the above sim cards is only valid within the UAE, the calling minutes can be used to call any number in the world. Unlimited calls to other DU number is included in every DU prepaid sim card package.
Etisalat sim card prices at Dubai Airport
In Terminal 1,2 and 3 at DXB Airport there is a Etisalat shop and they sell prepaid Dubai sim cards for tourists. They now offer a new Etisalat visitor sim:
- 125 AED ($34) = 6 GB data + 120 minutes - valid for 28 days.
- 200 AED ($56) = 22.5 GB data + 525 minutes - valid for 28 days.
But you can also opt for one of the standard Etisalat prepaid sim card packages:
- 49 AED ($13) = 2 GB data + 30 minutes - valid for 28 days.
- 79 AED ($22) = 4 GB data + 30 minutes - valid for 28 days.
Data of all the above Etisalat Dubai sim cards can only be used in the UAE, calling and texting credit to any number in the world.
There are add-on / top ups for Etisalat available but 1 GB OR 50 minutes calling time is another lousy 50 AED ($14). I told you Dubai sim cards are expensive!
When choosing between a Du and an Etisalat sim card for Dubai then the prices are the exact same for prepaid sim cards with 2 GB and 4 GB. However the Du sim card with 6 GB data is 25 AED cheaper than Etisalat as per May 2021.
But there is more… I told you buying a sim card at Dubai Airport was worth it, because nowadays there is also Virgin Mobile.
Virgin Mobile Dubai prepaid sim card for tourists
Virgin Mobile Dubai operates on the Du network and WAS a fresh wind into the fairly closed Dubai mobile internet market. They offered much better value for money and woke up the market in the UAE. Of course Du and Etisalat reacted and lowered their prices.
These are the available Virgin Mobile sim cards at Dubai Airport as of May 2021:
- 150 AED ($41) = 21 GB data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 7 days.
- 200 AED ($54) = 40 GB data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 10 days.
- 300 AED ($82) = 75 GB data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 15 days.
Virgin Mobile also offers more packages for 28 days, including international minutes as well, see the picture below.
As of May 2021 things have changed 180 degrees. Where Virgin Mobile always was the best sim card in Dubai, they now became the most expensive option for tourists. However for big volumes, so for data packages with a lot of GB they are still the best value sim card in Dubai.
Dubai Duty Free Shops
Some Dubai Duty free shops sell Virgin Mobile sim cards (for the same prices), but most of them only sell Etisalat packages. Another place where you can buy a sim card at Dubai Airport. Although I recommend going to one of the official stores as they are the ones specialized in sim cards for tourists.
Best sim card in Dubai for tourists
This used to be an easy decision. Virgin Mobile was always by far the best sim card in Dubai for tourists. However the tables have turned and Du and Etisalat are much cheaper when it comes to standard sim cards with data: like 2,4, or 6 GB.
Du and Etisalat differ just 1 AED for a data package with 2 or 4 GB. However Du offers 6 GB for 100 AED ($27) and makes it the best buy. Therefore...
DU is the best prepaid sim card in Dubai in 2021!
Etisalat still has the best mobile network in the UAE, but DU is not far behind and has equally great coverage in all tourist destinations in the UAE.
How to get from Dubai to Airport to Airport
The best way to get into Dubai from DXB Airport is with by Metro. The Metro operates directly from Dubai Airport and gets you to most places in the city. The Metro operates between 5am and 11pm, except on Fridays then from Terminal 1 and 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.
For some reason taxis in Dubai are not really expensive and they all operate by meter. 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.
If all the above tips for buying a sim card in Dubai and the UAE were helpful, please help me in return by sharing the link of this article on the internet. Every share on Facebook, Twitter or pin on Pinterest would mean a lot to me. Thank you very much in advance.
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.
Enjoy your trip to Dubai!