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 December 2021, the best 4G/5G network, my recommendation and even a complete vlog to show you everything you need to know.
Visiting Dubai but flying to Sharjah? Here is your specific guide for buying a UAE sim card at Sharjah Airport.
As I am trying to visit every country in the world, I get to see countless airports, cities and countries. Everywhere I go I buy a local sim card to stay connected and see it as a great opportunity to keep other travelers informed about the best deals. That is how I wrote more than 150 local prepaid sim card guides from around the world: Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, USA, London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Canada, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Europe 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.
But it is 100% cheaper than roaming costs or international data plans or world travel sim cards. These international sim cards with global coverage are very expensive compared to local sim cards. Check out the link to see my comparison of all international sim cards.
First off we recommend buying a sim card at Dubai Airport on arrival! Simple, easy and fast and you are straight away connected.
Normally this is the section where I recommend the best prepaid sim card deal keeping in mind the 4G/5G network coverage. In the UAE there is NOT much difference and buying either a DU or an Etisalat prepaid sim card is more or less the same. Both expensive. Expect to pay around $4 per GB.
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.
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.
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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
This UAE sim card 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. Click here for more info or to order this Dubai sim card directly online!
E-Sim Card for Dubai
Another option is to order an e-sim card for Dubai. 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! The e-sim cards are data-only and are offered by Burj Mobile. They operate on both the Etisalat and the DU network, so it guarantees you the best data connection possible.
- $15 USD = 1 GB for 7 days
- $45 USD = 3 GB for 30 days
- $60 USD = 5 GB for 30 days
Click here to check out all the Dubai e-sim card deals and order them directly online.
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 $5 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!
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.
Where to buy a Dubai prepaid sim card
You can buy Dubai prepaid sim cards for visitors in almost every mall around the Dubai. However, we recommend you to buy a UAE prepaid sim card at the 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.
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.
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 in the UAE and they operate on the DU network.
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. 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 for Dubai used to be the best-buy as they offered great prepaid sim card deals, but those days are gone:
- 150 AED ($41) = 21 GB data (3 GB/day) + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 7 days.
- 200 AED ($54) = 40 GB data (4 GB/day)+ 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 10 days.
- 305 AED ($83) = Unlimited data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 10 days
- 405 AED ($110) = Unlimited data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes - valid for 15 days.
On top of these short term sim card deals they also have the following prepaid sim card packages available for 4 weeks:
- 189 AED = 7 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes - $51
- 299 AED = 15 GB data + 200 minutes + 50 int. minutes - $81
- 357 AED = 22 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes - $97
- 420 AED = 28 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes - $114
- 656 AED = 50 GB data + 50 minutes + 50 int. minutes - $179
It is not difficult to conclude that the Virgin Mobile sim card prices are much higher than Du and Etisalat and therefore alone already I would not recommend buying a Virgin Mobile prepaid sim card for Dubai.
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. The difference is the discount coupons.
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 by plug and play. Just 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.
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 Dubai sim card.
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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 both network coverage maps, 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 slightly much better network than Du. That said for most tourists who stay in and around Dubai there is no difference between both networks. Are you going off the beaten path in the UAE than Etisalat is the best prepaid sim card in Dubai for tourists!
Best prepaid sim card in Dubai for tourists
It is a though decision to determine the best prepaid sim card for Dubai as prices and network coverage are pretty much the same. IT kind of comes down to which discounts you prefer. In my case that is the Careem taxi app credit that is appealing to me. Careem is the same as Uber and works fine in Dubai. Therefore personally I did choose an Etisalat prepaid sim card for Dubai.
How to get from Dubai to Airport to Airport
The time table on the above photo is old. Sorry...
The best 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 reliable, but 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, but in peak times these taxi apps can be expensive. 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.
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 and as of 2022 I have visited 120 countries.
Enjoy your trip to Dubai!