Flying to Dubai soon? The first 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, prices, network and show you which prepaid sim card for Dubai is the best.
In December 2020 I spent a couple days in Dubai in and between my trip to Kurdistan, Iraq and my Pakistan trip. This blog is update in January 2021 to help you the best way I can finding the right Dubai sim card for you!
Looking for more info buying a sim card at Dubai Airport DXB, keep on reading!
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 45 countries about sim cards for tourists. Even expensive countries like Switzerland, Norway, Finland are much cheaper than Dubai data sim cards! A Dubai sim card gives you very little value for money unfortunately.
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!
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 that wanna save money! Check out the offers from TEP Wireless or click on the banner below for more info.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!