5 Best VPNs for UAE & Dubai in 2021 that work to avoid detection


Finding a VPN that works in the UAE is getting tricky because the government and ISPs are working together to block them. In this guide, we recommend the best UAE VPNs of 2021 – but they do have some caveats, so please read closely.

What are the best VPNs to use in UAE?

Below, you can take a quick look at the best VPN services that work in the UAE.

  1. ExpressVPN - A slightly pricey option, but one of the best VPNs for UAE. Has excellent privacy and unblocking capabilities.
  2. NordVPN - A good well-rounded VPN for the UAE. It's secure, fast and is known to unblock content for most ISPs, but is inconsistent with Etisalat.
  3. PrivateVPN - The cheapest VPN for the UAE. From $1.89 a month you get a secure & private VPN that's great for unblocking.
  4. VyprVPN - Advanced obfuscation (stealth) means that you can evade even the most invasive censorship.
  5. Surfshark - A well-rounded VPN for customers of DU, offering decent speeds & security. Be aware though that it doesn't work with Etisalat.

Try ExpressVPN our #1 VPN pick for the UAE

See in-depth analysis

Etisalat customers – Please be aware

For the past year, we have received multiple reports regarding the problems that Etisalat customers are experiencing with VPNs. We are working closely with VPN providers to get up-to-date information and to ensure that we only recommend services that will work in the UAE. Click here for updates.

The UAE government is blocking VPNs because it does not want people to use free VoIP services to make calls. This is because the government controls the local telecoms infrastructure and wants citizens to pay for traditional phone calls.

The UAE ISP Etisalat is currently using advanced methods to block VPNs so that citizens can't make VoIP calls, and as a result, few VPNs still function for Etisalat customers. Another UAE ISP, DU, is also attempting to block VPN usage, but has been far less successful.

Due to the ongoing circumstances in the UAE, it is essential that internet users choose their VPN carefully. The services in this guide are doing everything they can to provide VPN services to their UAE customers, which is why these are by far the best options available. 

To help you out, we've taken a close look at each VPN provider. Our detailed summaries will dig in to which VPN works with which ISP – so be sure to comb through each provider carefully to ensure you pick a VPN that's suitable for your circumstances.

Before recommending a VPN for the UAE, we have UAE residents testing the services in the country to ensure that they are still working. We also check for the following features to ensure it is safe to use there:

Only VPNs that can offer everything listed above are eligible for our best VPNs for the UAE list. Let's take a look at which services made the grade.

Please note: If you are an Etisalat customer, click here.

The Best VPNs for the UAE in 2021

These are the best VPNs to use in the UAE & Dubai currently:

ExpressVPN is an excellent VPN for UAE. According to reports, this well-known service works for many Etisalat customers. It can also unblock all major VoiP and streaming services.

  • Pricing

    • 12 months + 3 months FREE + Backblaze backup: $6.67/mth
      48% OFF
    • 6 months: $9.99/mth
    • 1 month: $12.95/mth
  • Pros

    • Lightway has been fully audited – guaranteeing speed and security
    • Can unblock tons of content
    • Kill-switch, leak protection, and a no-logs policy
  • Cons

    • Expensive – but you get what you pay for
    • No port-forwarding – not the best for torrenting
    • Only 5 simultaneous connections
  • Speeds

    • 48.75 Mbps
  • Kill switch?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Encryption used

    • PPTP
    • L2TP/IPsec
    • IKEv2
    • OpenVPN
    • WireGuard

ExpressVPN Demo

ExpressVPN Demo
ExpressVPN Demo


ExpressVPN sails to the top of our list thanks to a full toolkit of features ideal for gaining privacy in the UAE. The service itself is based in the British Virgin Islands and abides by a no-logs policy – meaning that there's nothing to hand over to any authorities that come knocking. In addition to this robust security, ExpressVPN also works for most Etisalat customers at the time of writing.


We definitely recommend trying ExpressVPN for yourself. The 30-day money-back guarantee not only gives you plenty of time to trial the service on your own device, but allows you to claim back your money within a month if you're not impressed. However, we think you will be.


Security focused service


ExpressVPN's security ticks every box; the service employs AES 256-bit encryption and a variety of protocols, for a start, and users can also check out the provider's own proprietary protocol if they're looking for something more lightweight than OpenVPN. Lightway was created from the ground up by the ExpressVPN team and is remarkably fast, with particularly impressive connection speeds, and doesn't compromise when it comes to security.



I'm also happy to confirm that ExpressVPN has its very own kill-switch (known as Network Lock) that prevents your real IP address from leaking if the VPN connection drops. ExpressVPN also runs its own encrypted DNS on each server, which is more good news, seeing as it'll keep any snoopers (including your ISP and government) from pawing through your DNS requests.


Easy streaming


ExpressVPN is a titan of the VPN industry and can access just about any streaming service you can think of. Whether you want to browse through Netflix's various international libraries, catch live sports on ESPN, or access content from back home when you're abroad, the provider has your back. Folks in the UAE should also note that ExpressVPN can seamlessly unblock Skype, IMO, and other VoIP apps.


Whenever I use ExpressVPN, I'm surprised by just how fast the service is (and it consistently ranks well in our daily speed tests). I didn't run into any lag or buffering issues when putting the service to the test, and connecting to any of the servers, scattered across 94 countries, was also easy.


Extras galore


Most people have a selection of internet-enabled devices in the home, and the good news is that with ExpressVPN, you'll be able to secure them all. There are slick ExpressVPN apps for all platforms, and anything you can't directly install the VPN on can be covered by hooking up your router to the service instead. Customers get five simultaneous connections to use as they see fit, too.


All the ExpressVPN apps are jam-packed with features; an automatically enabled kill-switch, DNS leak protection, a browser extension that prevents WebRTC leaks, and obfuscation to ensure you can use the VPN without your ISP detecting VPN use.

Tested by Hannah Hart

Tested by Hannah Hart

NordVPN is a great all-round, reliable VPN to use in the UAE. It has tight security and privacy features to make sure you go undetected online in the UAE.

  • Pricing

    • 24 months: $3.71/mth
      68% OFF
    • 12 months: $4.92/mth
      58% OFF
    • 1 month: $11.95/mth
  • Pros

    • TOR over VPN servers
    • Double-hop VPN functionality for advanced security
    • Consistent speeds ideal for streaming
  • Cons

    • Not as many servers as some of its competitors
    • No port-forwarding – torrenters may want to consider another option
    • NordLynx has yet to be audited
  • Speeds

    • 44.47 Mbps
  • Kill switch?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Encryption used

    • PPTP
    • L2TP/IPsec
    • IKEv2
    • OpenVPN
    • WireGuard

Nord Demo

Nord Demo
Nord Demo


NordVPN is a premium-feeling provider that won't cost the earth – just one of the many reasons that it's become something of a household name. Those in the UAE should check out the NordLynx protocol, built around Wireguard, which provides the obfuscation necessary to bypass VPN blocks in the country and establish a successful connection on either DU or Etisalat.


As you'd expect, NordVPN also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee that'll let you take the service for a test drive, and you'll even be able to pay for your subscription with cryptocurrency, if you prefer a little extra anonymity.


Enhance your privacy


NordVPN is not interested in your connection timestamps, bandwidth or traffic data, or other identifiable information – which is exactly what we like to hear from a VPN. The provider easily qualifies as a no-logs service, and has even invited independent auditing services to comb through the claim for themselves. Furthermore, NordVPN is based in Panama, which takes it beyond the reach of EU and US jurisdictions.



AES 256-bit encryption will keep your browsing sessions secure, and an automatic kill-switch is a nice (and, frankly, necessary) extra feature – so there's no need to worry about what'll happen if your VPN connection unexpectedly drops. Plus, you can actually customize whether the kill-switch affects your internet as a whole or just specific, nominated applications.


Unlock the internet


There are few VPNs that can keep up with NordVPN when it comes to unblocking geo-restricted content. Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime – NordVPN can tackle them all, and open up a world of content without pesky blocks and barriers. NordVPN does come with its very own SmartDNS service, too, but it's important to note that the service does not encrypt your traffic the same way a regular VPN does, so some user discretion is advised.


The process of connecting to a NordVPN server is effortlessly simple, and it's quite apparent that the VPN's interface has been designed with the end experience in mind. Use the map to select any of NordVPN's 5,200 servers in more than 60 countries, and enjoy blazing speeds that are ideal for streaming, torrenting, gaming, and VoIP calls.


Real value for money


You're getting a lot of bang for your buck when you buy a NordVPN subscription. The VPN is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices, as well as Linux OS, and there are even proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Six simultaneous connections should also be enough to cover all of your most important gadgets.


In addition to superb encryption and unblocking power, NordVPN customers will be able to play with DoubleVPN (which encrypts your traffic twice), a CyberSec ad-blocker, and split tunneling – all handy features that folks in the UAE could benefit from. In addition, I'd also recommend making good use of the multi-factor authentication provided by NordVPN!

Tested by Aaron Drapkin

Tested by Aaron Drapkin

PrivateVPN is the cheapest VPN to stay secure in the UAE. It comes with stealth technology to help you go unnoticed and is perfect for unblocking streaming services.

  • Pricing

    • 12 months + 12 months FREE: $2.49/mth
      79% OFF
    • 3 months: $6/mth
      50% OFF
    • 1 month: $12/mth
  • Pros

    • Perfect for beginners
    • Full torrenting support and port-forwarding
    • A budget, but high quality, service
  • Cons

    • Smaller server network than some of its more expensive competitors
    • Based in Sweden
    • Slower than its more established peers (but still quick enough to comfortably stream and game)
  • Speeds

    • 27.12 Mbps
  • Kill switch?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Encryption used

    • PPTP
    • L2TP/IPsec
    • IKEv2
    • OpenVPN

PrivateVPN Demo

PrivateVPN Demo
PrivateVPN Demo


PrivateVPN is a remarkably reliable provider that's perfect for anyone on a budget. I like that one inexpensive subscription comes with well-implemented OpenVPN encryption and a no-logs policy, and it's also great to have the option to connect via TCP over port 443 for extra obfuscation (cloaking). This makes keeps your data ultra-secure, and ensures that your ISP won't know that you're using a VPN, seeing as your traffic will appear to be regular HTTPS.


One thing to bear in mind is that PrivateVPN is not currently compatible with Etisalat, which means you'll need a DU subscription in order to use the service.


Content from across the globe


I used PrivateVPN to access Netflix US as well as BBC iPlayer and had no trouble at all. I could stream in HD and browse through content libraries with ease. Plus, PrivateVPN is more than capable of unblocking VoIP services like Skype and Zoom, so you can stay connected to loved ones around the world.



PrivateVPN has more than 200 servers in 63 countries – other VPNs have more servers in more places, of course, but PrivateVPN is still a young service. All PrivateVPN servers are incredibly quick and well-suited to streaming, gaming, and video calls. There are no bandwidth caps to worry about, either, so engaging in P2P activity is a breeze – and there are even servers dedicated to the task!


Stay secure


PrivateVPN well and truly lives up to its name, packing strong AES 256-bit encryption alongside a selection of protocols. I'd recommend sticking with OpenVPN if privacy is your main concern, however, and avoiding PPTP altogether. The service is a great pick for the UAE considering that it also boasts stealth servers ideal for anyone living in a country with regressive internet censorship laws.


I particularly like that the PrivateVPN kill-switch can be customized to cut your internet entirely or just kill specific applications, and that it works perfectly in tandem with the provider's auto-connect feature. This means that if you run into a VPN outage, you'll be back online as soon as possible, as smoothly as possible. Seeing that PrivateVPN is based in Sweden is slightly less encouraging. The country does have data retention laws, but the service offsets them by enforcing a no-logs policy, and offering IPv6 and DNS leak protection.


Support direct from developers


If you're new to the world of VPNs, you'll be glad to hear that PrivateVPN's customer service team is available via live chat and email, and contactable 24/7. The team itself is made up of in-house developers, and when I spoke to them, they were quick to respond and extremely helpful, which isn't something that all VPN support teams can boast!


PrivateVPN is compatible with Mac, Windows, iOS, and Linux, and customers get six simultaneous connections – which is the industry standard. You can test the service yourself with a 30-day money-back guarantee, or, if you really don't want to pay a penny, check out the 7-day free trial, instead!

Tested by Ray Walsh

Tested by Ray Walsh

VyprVPN offers plenty of servers in the Middle East and is strong on privacy, thanks to its proprietary Chameleon protocol.

  • Pricing

    • 24 months + 12 months FREE: $1.81/mth
      86% OFF
    • 12 months + 6 months FREE: $2.5/mth
      80% OFF
    • 1 month + 1 month FREE: $6.47/mth
      50% OFF
  • Pros

    • Advanced stealth features mean you can even evade deep-packet inspection
    • Supports peer-to-peer torrenting
    • Independently audited zero-logs policy
  • Cons

    • One of the slower VPNs on the list
    • Only 5 simultaneous connections
    • Doesn't accept cryptocurrency payments
  • Speeds

    • 36.11 Mbps
  • Encryption used

    • PPTP
    • L2TP/IPsec
    • IKEv2
    • OpenVPN
    • WireGuard

VYPR Demo

VYPR Demo
VYPR Demo


VyprVPN is an excellent companion VPN to have when you're traveling, whether it's for work or a vacation, as you'll be secured whenever you join an unsecure Wi-Fi hotspot. Even if you're at home, VyprVPN's impressive suite of security tools is well worth testing for yourself – and you can do so, risk free, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.


For users in the UAE, the proprietary Chameleon protocol will come in particularly handy. Chameleon scrambles metadata in order to prevent deep packet inspection (DPI) and existing VPN bans, meaning that people in even the most restrictive countries can access the web, freely.


Keep your connection safe


VyprVPN takes a serious stance when it comes to security. The firm has undergone an independent audit, and its no-logs policy confirms that user IP addresses, browsing histories, and communications are never logged. Furthermore, because VyprVPN makes its home in Switzerland, there are no native data retention laws to worry about!



The service relies on AES 256-bit encryption alongside DNS protection to ensure that no snoopers can rifle through your traffic, and users can take their pick from a number of popular VPN protocols. OpenVPN is a great all-round and WireGuard is a new, up-and-coming alternative, and Chameleon is the best choice for anyone battling VPN bans or censorship in their country. A NAT firewall and customizable kill-switch (that can run at the application or system level, and even block LAN traffic) are perfect cherries on top.


Global coverage


With more than 700 servers across 70 locations, you'll be hard-pressed to find a corner of the globe that you can't geo-hop to. It's especially impressive to learn that VyprVPN owns all of its server hardware, reducing the risk of third-party interference. And the fact that these servers are quick, have no bandwidth caps, and can defeat ISP throttling makes VyprVPN a stand-out choice for streamers around the world.


Access Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu with ease, and if you'd rather do a bit of torrenting, you can! VyprVPN treats all traffic equally.


For veterans and newcomers


One of my favorite things about VyprVPN is how simple it is to use. The apps download in a blink and look great, and they're compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices. You'll also be able to install VyprVPN on compatible routers.


VyprVPN offers up to five simultaneous connections, which is ideal if you have a few gadgets you'd like to hook up to an open web, and support available around the clock via live chat and email.

Tested by Ray Walsh

Tested by Ray Walsh

Surfshark is a well rounded VPN if you're in the UAE – however, it doesn't work for Etisalat customers. If you're on DU though, you can expect excellent speeds & tight security.

  • Pricing

    • 24 months: $2.49/mth
      80% OFF
    • 6 months: $6.49/mth
      49% OFF
    • 1 month: $12.95/mth
  • Pros

    • Unlimited simultaneous connections!
    • Servers in 65 countries
    • Superb OpenVPN encryption
  • Cons

    • Mac client isn't as fully-featured
    • No port-forwarding – not the best for torrenting
    • Single-month price is notably high
  • Speeds

    • 42.57 Mbps
  • Kill switch?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Encryption used

    • L2TP/IPsec
    • IKEv2
    • OpenVPN
    • WireGuard

Surfshark Demo

Surfshark Demo
Surfshark Demo


Surfshark is a VPN that is considered an excellent option for users in the UAE. However, you'll need to bear in mind that it will currently only work for customers with a DU subscription. 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 actually work for (some) UAE consumers.


If you're uncertain whether Surfshark is the right fit for you, you can test it out without risking your money, thanks to a 30-day money-back guarantee. Android, iOS and Mac users actually have access to a 7-day free trial, too! Just remember to cancel the trial before your time is up to avoid a charge.


Full-package privacy


Surfshark provides all the most important VPN features we think are necessary for users in the UAE, like a manually-enabled kill-switch, DNS leak protection, and obfuscation to ensure that you can use the VPN without being discovered. OpenVPN encryption is also ideal for keeping your data secure. If you're looking for an alternative to OpenVPN, you might consider the Shadowsocks proxy. Originally designed to breach the Great Firewall of China, it's particularly useful to anyone looking to combat imposing geo-restrictions and censorship.



I'm also pleased to see that Surfshark enforces a no-logs policy, which has been audited by Cure53, an independent team. Being based in the British Virgin Islands, beyond the reach of the EU and US jurisdictions, is another plus.


A world of content


Surfshark is seriously speedy, and the ideal choice for Netflix fanatics or gamers. Your streams will be HD, your VoIP calls crisp; plus, all Surfshark servers are RAM-only, meaning they're fully wiped each time they're turned off. Take your pick of more than 3,200 servers in 65 countries and readily access streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, to name a few.


If you'd like to browse through geo-restricted content whilst also accessing local apps or sites, you can do so with Surfshark's split tunneling feature. The build-in ad-blocker will also banish any annoying ads, trackers, and malware threats that tend to lurk on streaming sites.


Outstanding apps


In my personal experience, all of Surfshark's apps are incredibly easy to use. The Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac apps look great and perform well, and made for a smooth VPN experience that I'd easily recommend to veterans and newbies alike. Plus, regardless of whether I used Surfshark at home or when connected to public Wi-Fi, connection speeds were quick.


Of course, one of Surfshark's main bragging points is the fact that it allows unlimited simultaneous connections! This is perfect for protecting your family and/or friend's devices and keeping them connected to a free web, where they can access social media or international news sites in a few clicks.

Tested by Attila Tomaschek

Tested by Attila Tomaschek

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Using a VPN if you're an Etisalat Customer

We are closely monitoring the situation on the ground in the UAE. We have someone on location performing tests to find out whether VPNs are still working there. This allows us to check which VPNs are still a valid option for Etisalat customers. 

Following our tests in 2021, we are confident that NordVPN is the best option if you are an Etisalat subscriber. 

NordVPN is always able to help Etisalat customers connect, even if they initially have trouble doing so. Best of all, NordVPN now provides its implementation of the WireGuard protocol – NordLynx.

This is a super-fast protocol that provides built-in obfuscation as a result of which VPN use goes unnoticed and unblocked by the ISP.

Try Nord >>

NordVPN is a VPN provider recognized across the industry for providing a secure service and excellent unblocking capabilities. The service is based in Panama, it has secure apps for all platforms, and it provides a choice of encryption protocols. 

This includes NordLynx and IKEv2 – both of which are used by Etisalat customers to get around the ISP-enforced VPN blocks.

NordVPN has a kill-switch and obfuscation to conceal VPN use and to enable users to perform torrenting and other sensitive online tasks without being tracked. And, if you subscribe, you will get access to a network of servers situated worldwide. 

Check out our full NordVPN review for more information.

Why do UAE ISPs block VPNs?

ISPs in the UAE are under large amounts of pressure to block VPNs. This is because the government does not want people to be able to bypass the restrictions it has put in place.

Due to these blocks, VPN providers must actively seek to stay one step ahead of the government by giving their users a way to use the VPN. The situation is complex and constantly evolving, and VPN providers are working hard to find new ways to bypass restrictions.

The good news is that all of our recommendations have a money-back guarantee. This means you can test those VPNs risk-free to see how they perform for you.

If you notice a VPN has stopped working in the UAE, we recommend you contact your provider to find out if they can help. If a VPN on this page doesn't work, and its customer support team can't help you, simply ask for a full refund (and please let us know). We keep this page up-to-date and always listen to our readers if they experience difficulties. 

Mobile users

If you are a mobile user, we recommend changing onto Du if you want to use a VPN. Du doesn't try to block VPNs nearly as much as Etisalat. The same is true if you are a residential broadband subscriber and Du is available where you live. Changing onto Du is a great way to increase the number of VPN choices available to you.

However, if you're limited to Etisalat, you can try NordVPN with their money-back guarantee, or opt for a smaller, lesser-known VPN provider that is more likely to fly under the radar.

What is the fastest VPN for the UAE

Most people in the UAE want a VPN to use VoIP apps to make free calls to their friends and family or business colleagues. However, a fast VPN is essential if you're going to be hopping into video calls.

The majority of VPNs on the market have slow servers that are not suitable for streaming HD videos, engaging in calls, or downloading torrents. That is why it is essential to find a VPN that works in UAE and provides access to fast servers.

In this guide, we have pinpointed VPN providers that work with services like Zoom and Skype. They have large networks of servers worldwide so that you can gain access to vast amounts of content while maintaining superb internet speeds.

All the VPNs in this guide are known to be super fast. We know this because we test VPN speeds on a daily basis to understand the speeds that they offer our readers. The table below shows the latest results:

Place Provider Average Speed Max Speed Visit Site
1. 60.47 Mbit/s 76.33 Mbit/s Visit Site
2. 56.28 Mbit/s 77.84 Mbit/s Visit Site
3. 54.87 Mbit/s 80.84 Mbit/s Visit Site
4. 45.18 Mbit/s 55.75 Mbit/s Visit Site
5. 41.19 Mbit/s 108.18 Mbit/s Visit Site

For information about how we test VPN speeds, check out our speed testing tool for information about our methodology.

Why do I need a VPN in UAE?

The government of the UAE enforces censorship online for religious and cultural purposes. It also blocks access to VoIP apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and Zoom. this is because the government controls the telecoms industry and wants to prevent people from making free calls.

With a VPN, you can unblock any websites blocked in the UAE, including VoIP apps. A VPN encrypts your data, so that what you do online cannot be tracked by the government, a local network admin or ISP. This gives you privacy and stops the authorities from ever finding out what you do online.

This makes a VPN the only safe way to bypass censorship and blocks imposed by the government. Accessing restricted content without a VPN is too risky because UAE ISPs work closely with the government.

In addition to letting you bypass censorship, a VPN can let you get around international geo-restrictions. For example, if you use a VPN for iPlayer you can stream it BBC content the UAE or you could stream more content on Netflix US, unblock regionally restricted YouTube videos and much more.

Reasons why you might want to use a VPN in the UAE:

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Top tip: Visiting the UAE

Visiting a VPN website may be enough to arouse suspicion because it reveals to your ISP (and the government) that you are intending to conceal your online habits. This could lead to the assumption that you are planning to access censored content to engage in VoIP calls. For this reason, we recommend that if you intend on traveling to the UAE; you subscribe to and install your VPN before you set off. 

What VPN features do you need if you are using a VPN in The UAE

If you access restricted websites and services in the UAE, you could face prosecution. Voice over IP is purposefully blocked, which means that you must use a highly secure VPN to unblock Skype, Facetime, Viber, or any other VoIP service. 

Below we have included a list of the features your VPN must-have if you are going to access government restricted content or services in the UAE. Be sure to enable these features when you use your VPN.

Are VPNs illegal in the UAE?

That largely depends on who you are and why you're using a VPN.

Having a VPN installed on your device is not illegal. It's also legal for companies, institutions, and banks to use VPNs as part of their internal networks. An individual downloading a VPN in order to manipulate internet protocols and commit crimes, however, is very much punishable by law.

Just using a VPN could be enough to suggest that you have something to hide and are accessing restricted content. This is why we suggest using a VPN with obfuscations (stealth connections) if you intend to access restricted content. This will allow you to access content censored by the TRA, without leaving any digital clues.

This is important, as being caught "misusing" a VPN has some dire repercussions. You could be embroiled in an investigation, receive a fine, or even prison time!

Obviously, nobody wants to wind up behind bars for using a VPN, but it should be noted that the aforementioned fines are nothing to dismiss out of hand, either.

As per Article 9 of the UAE Cyber Law, anyone who "uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address by using a false address or a third-party address" could wind up with an eye-watering fine of not less than AED 500,000 or jail time – or both!

So if you want to stay on the right side of the law... don't break it. That being said, it's always worth choosing a VPN that provides strong encryption, a kill-switch, DNS leak protection, and some form of cloaking/obfuscation. Using a (non-recommended) free VPN for the UAE – or a VPN that does not provide these important features – could be risky depending on your use case. 

Your best bet will be to stick to one of the recommended VPNs for UAE in this article, as they have all the features you need to stay secure.

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

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Using a VPN in UAE

Many businesses use VPNs to secure their data. This is why VPN use itself is not illegal in the UAE. Any time you use a VPN to encrypt your data and gain privacy – you are acting legally. However, if you choose to access restricted websites or services, you are committing a crime (even if nobody knows about it). This is why VPN use can potentially raise suspicions – and is why we recommend taking precautions to prevent anybody from realizing you're using a VPN. 

Downloading your VPN

We recommend that you download and install your VPN software before you land in the UAE if you're visiting from another country. VPN sites are often blocked in the UAE, so accessing one when you're actually there might be tricky. 

If you are already in the UAE, it is possible to subscribe to a VPN and have the provider send the installation and .config files to you directly for added discretion.

Using your VPN

As we discussed earlier, there are certain VPN features that are deemed to be essential when browsing the web in the UAE. Before you visit sites, it's a good idea to review your VPN settings and ensure that you are using OpenVPN encryption and the following features are all turned on (if your VPN offers them):

Testing your VPN

Finally, it is always a good idea to test your VPN isn't leaking before you use it. To do this, head over to our VPN leak testing tool and follow the steps. You'll get your results in a matter of minutes.

Using a free VPN in UAE

If you are running low on cash, you may be curious about the possibility of getting a free VPN to use in UAE. The good news is that there are some VPNs on the market that provide a reliable and trustworthy free VPN plan – but these come with some caveats. 

Free subscription plans are specifically designed to give you a limited taste 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 cannot stream HD videos on a regular basis or to engage in video conferencing due to data caps and speed limits. 

If it's just a VPN for day-to-day browsing, then a free VPN could be a great option. Just make sure you stick with our list of recommended free VPN providers.

Are free VPNs safe to use in UAE?

Not all of them. There are many free VPNs on the market that harvest user data and sell it to third parties. Studies have revealed that most free VPNs have weak encryption and even contain spyware in their apps. These VPNs are an enormous risk. There are even some free VPNs around that are rumored to be government honeypots designed to catch UAE internet users out! So it is important to be careful.

Risks aside, these free VPNs are often very limited when it comes to features and offer a basic service. You might miss out on the important VPN factors that we outlined above as essential for UAE users.

We'd recommend testing the VPNs in this article by putting their money-back guarantees to the test. This will allow you to trial a complete, premium-tier VPN – with all the market leading privacy and security features – for approximately 30 days risk-free (check each VPN for the specific money-back deal). 

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

Top-tip: Get ExpressVPN for Free!

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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!

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What is blocked in the UAE?

Below we take a look at the various websites and online services that are subject to local censorship in the UAE to help you understand how a VPN could benefit you.

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

UAE VPNs for Skype, WhatsApp, and Facetime

The UAE government controls the local telecoms company, and strictly prohibits anyone from making free calls on apps like Skype. The government has also forced ISPs within the country to block access to popular VoIP apps.

Fortunately, if you subscribe to one of the VPNs in this guide, you'll easily be able to access those apps and use them from within 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 are also blocked in the UAE, meaning that you'll 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 typically cost, on average, around $48 US per year, 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.

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.

Can I unblock GeForce Now with a VPN?

Nvidia's streaming platform is finally here, and if you want to use it in the UAE, you will need to use a VPN. Nvidia's GeForce Now game streaming platform lets you play AAA games from your browser, without the need for an expensive gaming PC. That means you can leverage the power of Nvidia's servers to play games, even on a laptop! 

In order to optimize the service, Nvidia only wants people playing on servers in their own region. This may be frustrating if you want to play games with international GeForce users.

On top of this, there is currently no server in the Middle East, as a result of which anybody living in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Bahrain will be served a "GeForce Now is currently not supported in your region" message.

The good news is that you can use any of the VPNs in this guide to pretend to be in Europe, the USA, or anywhere else where the game streaming platform is currently available. Simply subscribe to one of the VPNs in this guide, navigate to GeForce Now and use the service thanks to your VPN!

FAQs

Conclusion

Many people use a VPN in the UAE, and as long as you pick a reliable service and implement its advanced security features, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. If you have any questions, feel free to drop us a message below. Remember, you can try any of the VPN's below, risk-free, thanks to their money-back guarantee.

  1. ExpressVPN - A slightly pricey option, but one of the best VPNs for UAE. Has excellent privacy and unblocking capabilities.
  2. NordVPN - A good well-rounded VPN for the UAE. It's secure, fast and is known to unblock content for most ISPs, but is inconsistent with Etisalat.
  3. PrivateVPN - The cheapest VPN for the UAE. From $1.89 a month you get a secure & private VPN that's great for unblocking.
  4. VyprVPN - Advanced obfuscation (stealth) means that you can evade even the most invasive censorship.
  5. Surfshark - A well-rounded VPN for customers of DU, offering decent speeds & security. Be aware though that it doesn't work with Etisalat.

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. 

32 Comments

Dan
on May 18, 2021
Reply
Hi there! Just reading up and you mentioned on one article etisilat customers are best to use Nord right now but on another it says it’s having trouble with etisilat so I’m confused. Please if you can clarify so I can pick either Nord or Express would be greatful. Thanks!
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Ray Walsh replied to Dan
on June 30, 2021
Reply
Sorry for this confusion, it is our understanding that NordVPN is managing to provide its service successfully to Etisalat customers. The situation in UAE is extremely turbulent and we have to update the article over time, clearly, the update got garbled on this occasion. It has now been fixed. If you do test Nord on the ground, be sure to come back and let us know how it went, always interested to receive direct information from users living in situ.
Khalid Adli
on June 11, 2020
Reply
Great article and great choices, myself I have tested them all, they all face the DPI that UAE use here, ExpressVPN is the best, but you can't make the connection directly from the app, the other choice is to manually configure vpn connection using l2tp inbuilt service in the device, adding ExpressVPN servers and PSK, with the user and password they provide, but again how secure is this choice with the DPI technology! NordVPN also is a great choice , you can start a connection direct from the app, but it will not work in all network providers here (Etisalat or Du), and it may work in one device through Wifi but not mobile data (3G, 4G) or the opposite in other devices, or regions! ipvanish is the cheapest considering that you can connect to 10 simultaneous devices with the same subscription! Generally OpenVPN with SSL tunnel will work here in UAE, but with limited internet speed to max 2 Mbps, whatever is your internet speed! what really works is openconnect protocol , any app using this protocol will work with best internet speed, I have tested it on 300 Mbps internet speed, the speed while VPN is on was 28 Mbps! I'm trying hard not to be advertising my humble vpn app using openconnect protocol, but if you reach this point reading my commect, you are most welcome to go further searching google play store for "Khalid VPN" have a free try, leave a review, share your opinion! Thanks
Raju mondal
on April 7, 2020
Reply
You have haig quality vpn,I need vpn for UAE. Just, i do want video and audio call.
Dan
on July 9, 2018
Reply
Express VPN is not working as well as Nord.. Do they pay you for the advertisement?
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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.
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