5 Best VPNs for UAE & Dubai in 2020 - Are VPNs illegal in the UAE?

There are laws surrounding the use of a VPN in UAE and Dubai. This makes it vital to choose a UAE VPN with strong privacy features. In addition, the most predominant Internet Service Provider, Etisalat, is now actively blocking VPNs. As a result, very few VPNs still work in UAE. In this article, we've detailed the best UAE VPNs that perform reliably; with info about which ISPs they currently work with.

What is the best UAE VPN?

Below you can get a quick look at the top VPNs for UAE. However if you want more details, please scroll down. 

  1. ExpressVPN - is a well-known service that works for Etisalat customers
  2. NordVPN - is a useful service for UAE that is known to unblock content on most ISPs
  3. PrivateVPN - is secure, private, and perfect for unblocking streaming services
  4. IPVanish - IPVanish is a US-based service with strong obfuscation options
  5. Surfshark - Unblock Netflix US | Access VoIP apps | Servers in 61 countries

Best 5 VPNs for UAE that are safe to use

Above you got a basic idea of the 5 best UAE VPNs. However, because Etisalat is blocking VPNs, we highly recommend reading the full summaries below to  compare the 5 best VPNs for Dubai & the greater UAE:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a well-known service that works for Etisalat customers

  • Pricing

    From $6.67 / month
  • Available on

    • Android
    • iOS
    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

ExpressVPN keeps zero logs, and it has all the features you need to ensure you never leak data in the UAE. And the great news is that it even works if you are with Etisalat. A killswitch, DNS leak protection, a browser extension that combats IPv6 WebRTC leaks, and stealth mode ensure that the VPN can successfully provide you with privacy and conceal VPN use from your ISP.

ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries, all of which are extremely fast so you can stream without buffering in HD. Plus, this VPN provides access to the most popular services from around the world - including BBC iPlayer and Netflix US. It will also unblock Skype, IMO and other VOIP apps. Customer care is available via live chat and there is software and VPN setup guides for all platforms. Finally, it offers a 30-day money back guarantee so that you can test it for yourself. 

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2. NordVPN

NordVPN is the reliable service for UAE with tight security and privacy

  • Pricing

    From $3.49 / month
  • Available on

    • MacOS
    • Android
    • iOS
    • Windows
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

NordVPN uses a XOR obfuscated algorithm to allow you to overcome censored websites in the UAE. However NordVPN is not currently working with Etisalat, so you will need to get a DU subscription if you want to connect using this VPN.

As long as you are a DU ISP customer, you can use NordVPN to unblock geo-restricted content, such as Netflix, iPlayer, Skype, IMO, (and other VOIP apps) and internet banking. NordVPN Also permits P2P torrenting. This VPN keeps zero logs, meaning that you can be confident that your data is kept private. Other important security features NordVPN features are a killswitch, DNS leak protection, Tor through VPN and double-hop encryption.

NordVPN has servers in over 60 countries all of which have consistently high speeds. Live chat support is available on its website 24/7. NordVPN is exceptional value for money and you can test it risk free for 30-days.

3. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN is secure, private, and perfect for unblocking streaming services

  • Pricing

    From $1.89 / month
  • Available on

    • Android
    • iOS
    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

PrivateVPN was a runner up in the best value category at the BestVPN.com awards. As well as being cheap this VPN is reliable and provides OpenVPN encryption, and it is possible to connect via TCP over port 443 for extra obfuscation. So, you will be ultra-secure. PrivateVPN provides access to all the most popular streaming services including Netflix US and BBC iPlayer and unblocks VOIP apps such as Skype. It has servers in over 50 countries and 24/7 live chat support. An excellent all-rounder with a zero logs policy. However, bear in mind that it is not working with Etisalat, so you will need a DU subscription. 

4. IPVanish

IPVanish is a US-based service with strong obfuscation options

  • Pricing

    From $4.12 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Android
    • iOS

IPVanish provides XOR obfuscation and TCP over port 443 so you have options when it comes to concealing your IP in the UAE. IPVanish also has a zero logs policy, provides strong OpenVPN encryption, DNS leak protection and a killswitch. Though it is worth disabling IPv6 to be absolutely secure. 

They have Servers located in over 60 countries, and, because it is fast it can be trusted for doing data-intensive tasks in privacy. Many people want a VPN for doing video calling such as Skype or IMO, and with IPVanish this is not a problem. What's more, you can test this VPN for 7 days thanks to its money back guarantee, so if you have any problems accessing what you need - you can decide to cancel. 

5. Surfshark

Surfshark is an impressive service that provides access to content worldwide

  • Pricing

    From $1.99 / month
  • Available on

    • Android
    • iOS
    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

Surfshark is a VPN that is considered an excellent option for users in the UAE. However, it is worth bearing in mind that it will only work for users who subscribe to the Internet Service Provider DU. Admittedly, this is slightly frustrating for consumers who are with Etisalat,  but the fact remains that it is one of the few VPNs that will work for some UAE consumers. Surfshark has servers in over 60 countries, and all those servers provide fantastic speeds for streaming. And, Surfshark is equipped to help you unblock popular services such as Netflix Us and BBC iPlayer. When it comes to privacy and security this provider has you covered. The software provides important VPN features such as a killswitch , DNS leak protection, and obfuscation to ensure that you can use the VPN without being discovered. And this VPN has a zero logs policy and provides OpenVPN encryption, which is perfect for keeping your data secure. You can give Surfshark a test run to make sure it works for you by making use of its risk-free 30-day money back guarantee.

5 Best VPNs for UAE: Speed analysis

Exactly what you want a VPN for, is going to dictate whether you need fast VPN or not. If you want a VPN for streaming video content, for making video conferencing calls, for gaming, or for downloading via BitTorrent - you are going to want a VPN that provides fast servers. 

As a general rule, if you want to use your VPN for anything but accessing news websites and reading online text documents - you will need a premium VPN with fast servers capable of delivering content without ruining your browsing experience. 

The results in the graph below are conducted daily under lab conditions using a dedicated gigabit line. You shouldn't expect similar speeds, because you do not have such a fast internet connection. However, these results reveal exactly which VPNs are performing quickly right now. 

Can I use a VPN to improve my internet speeds?

No, a VPN will not improve your current internet speeds. In fact, a VPN will always cause your internet to slow down slightly. Fast VPNs are so-called, because they have the fastest VPN servers available on the market. As a result, fast VPNs cause the smallest possible speed decrease available (practically negligible). Our recommended VPNs are all fast, meaning that the speed loss should be barely noticeable.

For more information, we recommend reading our VPN speed test guide.

 

Why do I need a VPN in the UAE?

With a VPN, citizens living in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or greater UAE, can bypass government censorship. Using a VPN, you can pretend to be living outside of the UAE. Connecting to a VPN server outside UAE unblocks websites that are censored by the government. Vitally, a VPN also permits you to access restricted content in privacy - thanks to the VPN encryption. As a result, nobody can tell you are bypassing government blocks.

A VPN isn’t just an advantage to UAE citizens who require access to blocked websites, services and apps. VPNs also allows you to access geo-restricted websites such as BBC iPlayer, online banking, unblocking Netflix US, and much more. A UAE VPN gives you unlimited online freedom and digital privacy, which is the ideal combination.

Below we have smmarized why we recommend  getting a UAE VPN:

  • Digital Privacy: In the UAE it is illegal to access a lot of content. If you are a journalist, a student - or somebody interested in global affairs and news - you can ensure private access to government restricted websites using the UAE VPNs in this guide.
  • Website access: The way the internet works means that users must contend with geo-restrictions as well as censorship. If you want to access foreign websites, TV streams, or services such as online banking - a VPN for UAE is the solution. A VPN can unblock everything.
  • Download and use blocked Apps: In the UAE the government is involved with the telecom infrastructure. For this reason, it does not want people making free calls. With a VPN you can access restricted VoIP apps such as Skype, Viber and FaceTime - and use them in private too.

VPN UAE - Must have features

Using a VPN to access censored websites or restricted Voice over IP (VoIP) apps like Skype and Viber could get you in trouble with the police. For this reason, it is important to subscribe to a UAE VPN that has certain essential privacy features (that aren't necessarily required in other countries). 

For a VPN to work securely in UAE it must include the folowing features:

Free VPN for UAE 

If you are running low on cash, you may be curious about the possibility of getting a free VPN in Dubai (or anywhere else in the UAE). The good news is that there are some VPNs on the market that provide a reliable and trustworthy free VPN plan. 

However, please bear in mind that those free subscription plans are specifically designed to give you a limited taster of the paid version. As a result, those free plans are purposefully restricted - and may not provide you with the kind of service you need. For example, free VPNs will not give you sufficient download limits to stream HD videos on a regular basis - or to engage in video conferencing. 

If you have never used a VPN before, you can go ahead and try a VPN for free by using one of these limited free subscription plans. However, please stick only to recommended free VPNs. There are many free VPNs around that retain and sell user data, track users, and even contain spyware in their apps. These VPNs are a huge risk. And, there are even some free VPNs around that are actually rumoured to be government honeypots designed to catch UAE internet users out! So please be careful.

The best idea, is to test a premium VPN from this article using its money-back guarantee. This will allow you to try out a complete VPN - with all the market leading privacy and security features - for approximately 30 days (check each VPN for the specific moneyback deal). 

Alternatively, you could subscribe to a cheap VPN and reduce the cost of a fuly-featured VPN by committing for a longer period of time.

Only the best premium VPNs have vital features such as a killswitch and obfuscated servers (VPN cloaking). Due to the legal status of unblocking content in the UAE; these features are extremely important. Without a killswitch and obfuscation, it is possible that your ISP could detect the fact that you are using a VPN. This could mean that you end up in trouble with the police (more on this later in the article).  

Thus, if you decide to use a free VPN please be sure to only use a trusted service, that does not skimp on privacy features and that includes a killswitch. 

Top-tip: Get ExpressVPN for Free!

Did you know you can experience ExpressVPN's fully featured service without limitation… for free!

If you're finding free VPNs too restrictive, why not test ExpressVPN premium service? Simply purchase a subscription using the button below and take advantage of the no-nonsense money-back-guarantee. Enjoy the service for up to 30-days, and when you cancel, you will receive a complete refund!

Visit ExpressVPN >>

What websites are blocked in the UAE?

Unblocking restricted content and using illegal VoIP apps could get you in trouble with the police. For this reason, a UAE VPN must have very specific features that you wouldn't necessarily need elsewhere.

Unfortunately for people living in the UAE, many popular websites and services are blocked.

Here are just some examples of the kinds of sites and services that are restricted:

  • Pornographic websites
  • Websites containing LGBTQ material 
  • Anti-Religious websites 
  • Anti-Islamic websites 
  • Gambling websites 
  • Anti-government
  • All Voice over IP apps

Using Skype and other VoIP apps in UAE 

In the UAE, the government controls the local telecoms company. For this reason, it strictly prohibits anybody from making free calls on Skype or other apps. As a result, the government has forced ISPs to block all access to popular VoIP apps. 

The good news is that if you get one of the VPNs in this guide, you can easily access VoiP apps and use them from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or elsewhere in the UAE.

Remember, you will need a VPN to use Skype, Discord, FaceTime and most other VoIP apps. 

VOIP features in mobile apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp’s are also blocked in the UAE, so you will need a VPN to use them. By connecting to a VPN, iPhone and Android users can unblock these features and more. It's important to note that although iPhone and Android VPN apps look very similar to each other, encryption protocols can differ from service to service. Check the provider websites for more details about this.

While a VPN that is reliable will cost around $48 US, this can actually save you a lot of money by allowing you to make free calls to friends and family - as well as international calls for free.

Do I need a Dubai VPN or an Abu Dhabi VPN?

If you are living anywhere in the UAE, a VPN can help you. The state imposes many blocks and a VPN can help you circumvent them all. It can be difficult to get on with your life if you can't access all the websites, apps, and services that are available online. 

With a VPN it doesn't matter whether you were born in Dubai, or are on holiday in Abu Dhabi; a VPN will let you bypass geo-restrictions, access the full Netflix catalog, use your Spotify login, let you unblock Youtube videos, or access illegal content such as pornography while you are in UAE.

Are VPNs illegal in the UAE?

No, using a VPN in the UAE is legal.

Having a VPN installed on your smartphone, computer or tablet is not illegal. However, having a VPN could be enough to make UAE authorities' suspicious of you. This is risky, because accessing restricted content, censored by the TRA, could result in a large fine and potentially even prison time.  

Thus, it is what you do with your VPN as opposed to having a VPN that is potentially illegal. That is why you should always use a VPN with strong encryption, a killswitch, DNS leak protection, and some form of cloaking/obfuscation. Using a  (none-recommended) free VPN for the UAE - or a VPN that does not provide these important features - is extremely risky. 

Please stick to one of the recommended VPNs for UAE in this article, as they have all the features you need to stay secure (and not get into trouble with the authorities).

For more information on this topic, check out our are VPNs legal? guide. 

FAQs

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. Ray is currently rated #7 VPN and #8 internet privacy authority by Agilience.com.

28 Comments

  1. Dan

    on July 9, 2018
    Reply

    Express VPN is not working as well as Nord.. Do they pay you for the advertisement?

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Dan

      on July 9, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Dan, Please remember that we are not actually based in the UAE. But we do monitor the situation as best we can and factor that into our recommendations. So thanks for your feedback. FWIW, the VPN listed here all offer obfuscation tech, which is why they are listed here.

  2. Jon

    on May 28, 2018
    Reply

    IPVANISH did not work in 2015, 2016, 2017... I don't think it works now. Tunnel Bear is free for 500MB a month... good for travelers passing through, but make sure you have the software downloaded before you are in country. cheers

  3. Captain Justice

    on May 26, 2018
    Reply

    Hello, I can tell you that express vpn and VyprVPN are both blocked out here. My Nord vpn stopped working a few months back. I couldn’t even get express vpn to connect. VyprVPN worked for a short time after I paid for the annual subscription and is now blocked. These guys are getting serious. What’s app is not blocked and everybody (locals included) use it. Skype is blocked. Etisalat now require you to purchase a £10 monthly add on to your mobile contract to use BOTIM (which is of course free to use everywhere else). You can only use BOTIM with your data, which gets rinsed, forcing you to buy additional data. I’m currently trying out a few ‘trial’ vpn providers to acces uk tv. Most vpns are blocked, but that’s what you get for leaving a democratic country to live in the uae.

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Captain Justice

      on May 28, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Captain Justive, Thanks for your on-the-ground feedback. Have you tried AirVPN's stunnel (OpenVPN inside an SSL tunnel) option?

  4. Felino lorica

    on May 26, 2018
    Reply

    I would like to ask what is the best vpn to be use for calling for my family . Is that illegal I will use my imo that it.

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Felino lorica

      on May 28, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Felino, Skype is blocked in the UAE, but as far as I can tell using a VPN is not illegal if you don't do anything illegal while using one. So talking to your family should be fine (but remember that I am no lawyer). All the VPNs listed on this page offer anti-censorship tech, which why we have listed them. But we are not based in the UAE, so you should also read comments for further on-the-ground advice from other readers.

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