In November 2019 I spent a couple days in Dubai in and between my trip to Kurdistan, Iraq and my Pakistan trip. The first thing I did upon arrival was buying a UAE sim card for tourists to stay online. Like most other things in the UAE a Dubai prepaid sim card is expensive, definitely if you use a lot of data. In this blog post I will tell you everything you need to know about a Dubai sim card for tourists: where to buy, prices, network and summarize which prepaid sim card for Dubai is the best.

Portable wifi device for Dubai and the UAE

Since Dubai prepaid sim cards are damn expensive a TEP portable wifi device for Dubai is a pretty good idea. Especially given the fact that you can connect up to 5 devices at the same time and get a bunch of data per day for a couple bucks.

Great for people traveling with children or couples! Check out the offers from TEP Wireless or click on the banner below for more info.

portable wifi device for dubai

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 in almost 35 countries about sim cards for tourists. Even expensive countries like Switzerland, Norway, Finland are much cheaper than Dubai data sim cards!

Best mobile network in Dubai and UAE

To check which of the 2 mobile operators has the best mobile network I compared both coverage maps from nperf.com.

Mobile network coverage map Du Dubai

network coverage map du dubai

Mobile network coverage map Etisalat Dubai

network 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. 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 shop 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.

prepaid dubai sim card for tourists 4

There is not much price difference for buying a sim card at Dubai city or at the airport, but at DXB airport you simply have more options. Bring your passport when buying a UAE sim card in Dubai, you need it for registration!

Buying a UAE sim card in Dubai

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

My research for the best UAE sim card was pretty simple as there are only 2 mobile internet operators in the UAE.

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 3 UAE prepaid sim cards for tourists:

  • 55 AED ($15) = 500 MB + 20 minutes - valid for 7 days.
  • 75 AED ($20) = 2 GB + 40 minutes - valid for 14 days.
  • 110 AED ($30) = 3.5 GB + 50 minutes - valid for 14 days.

The data of the above Du Dubai sim cards is only valid in the UAE, the calling minutes are to anywhere in the world.

du dubai sim card for tourists

Etisalat Dubai sim card prices

At any Etisalat shop in Dubai you can buy the following UAE prepaid sim cards for tourists:

  • 105 AED ($29) = 1 GB data only
  • 105 AED ($29) = 700 MB data + 40 minutes + 40 sms.

Data of the above Etisalat Dubai sim cards can only be used in the UAE, calling and texting to any number in the world. Both packages are only valid for 14 days.

etisalat dubai airport

Best UAE sim card for tourists

It is a very easy conclusion to determine the best UAE sim card for tourists when you want to buy a sim card in Dubai city. Du Dubai offers much more value for money compared to Etisalat and therefore they are the best UAE prepaid sim card for tourists.

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 you will find the same Dubai tourist sim cards.

dubai sim card for tourists 21

At every terminal you will find the following shops that sell Dubai prepaid sim cards for tourists:

  • Du
  • Etisalat
  • 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.

du sim card dubai airport

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.

prepaid dubai sim card for tourists 13

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!

free prepaid sim card dubai

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 custom scanner, you won’t be handed a free sim card! You will have to go to a booth with an officer!

Dubai sim card prices at Dubai Airport

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 are as follow:

  • 55 AED ($15) = 500 MB + 20 minutes - valid for 7 days.
  • 75 AED ($20) = 2 GB + 40 minutes - valid for 14 days.
  • 110 AED ($30) = 3.5 GB + 50 minutes - valid for 14 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.

du dubai prepaid sim card

Etisalat sim card prices at Dubai Airport

In Terminal 1,2 and 3 at DXB Airport there is a Etisalat shop and they sell the following prepaid Dubai sim cards for tourists:

  • 105 AED ($29) = 1 GB data only
  • 105 AED ($29) = 700 MB data + 40 minutes + 40 sms.

Data of the above Etisalat Dubai sim cards can only be used in the UAE, calling and texting credit to any number in the world. Both packages are only valid for 14 days.

prepaid dubai sim card for tourists 11

There are add-on / top ups for Etisalat available but 2 GB is another lousy 105 AED ($29) or 5 GB for 157.5 AED ($43). I told you Dubai sim cards are expensive!

When choosing between a Du and an Etisalat sim card for Dubai then Du has much more value for money! But there is more… I told you buying a sim card at Dubai Airport was worth it, because nowadays there is Virgin Mobile.

virgin mobile dubai airport

Virgin Mobile Dubai prepaid sim card for tourists

Virgin Mobile Dubai operates on the Du network and are a fresh wind into the fairly closed Dubai mobile internet market. They offer much better value for money! These are the available Dubai data sim cards:

  • 125 AED ($34) = 6 GB data + 50 minutes
  • 171 AED ($47) = 10 GB data + 50 minutes
  • 263 AED ($72) = 20 GB data + 50 minutes
  • 339 AED ($92) = 30 GB data + 50 minutes

The above packages are valid for 30 days only within the UAE. They offer more (expensive) packages including international minutes as well, see the picture below.

prepaid dubai sim card for tourists 2

As you can see the Virgin Mobile Dubai tourist sim cards give you much more data than the standard Du or Etisalat tourist sim cards!

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.

prepaid dubai sim card for tourists 10

The Etisalat Dubai prepaid sim cards for tourists are slightly cheaper at the Dubai Duty Free than at the Etisalat shop.

 

  • 90 AED ($25) = 1 GB data only
  • 90 AED ($25) = 700 MB data + 40 minutes + 40 sms.

sim card dubai airport

But be careful the top ups at the Dubai Duty Free shops are suddenly more expensive! SNEAKY :)

Best sim card in Dubai for tourists

Du and Virgin Mobile give you MUCH MORE value for money than Etisalat. The best prepaid Dubai sim card is Virgin Mobile, they give you the best value for money as for $34 you get 6 GB data and 50 minutes local calls.

Although Etisalat has the best mobile network in the UAE I would not recommend you buying an Etisalat tourist sim card for Dubai, simply too expensive.

Portable wifi device for Dubai

Getting a TEP Wireless portable wifi device for Dubai and the UAE is worth it! For a couple bucks a day you get unlimited internet and you can connect up to 5 devices at the same time. 

Definitely recommended if you are traveling with kids or as a couple and you don’t need to get in line buying a UAE sim card at Dubai Airport. Click on the link above or on the banner below!

portable wifi device for dubai

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.

from dubai airport to the city

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 send me a DM on my Instagram account @traveltomtom. Be careful this could create some serious wanderlust as I am attempting to travel to every country in the world. Curious how I started blogging and traveling? Read my article about how to afford to travel the world or read more on how to make money travel blogging.

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