5 Best VPNs for UAE & Dubai in 2020 to Avoid Detection | VPNs for iPhone, Android & Desktop

Finding a VPN that works in the UAE is getting more and more difficult. In this guide, we make some VPN recommendations, but some come with caveats, so read closely.

The best VPNs to use in UAE at a glance

If you're short on time, here's a quick look at the best VPN services to use in the UAE. If you require any more information on these services, keep scrolling.

  1. ExpressVPN - Our #1 best VPN for UAE pick. It's patchy for Etisalat customers but 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. IPVanish - A strong and stealthy VPN for the UAE. It works great with Skype and other VoiP services & has a killswitch as well as DNS leak protection.
  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

 

We are currently receiving reports that Etisalat customers are experiencing issues when using VPNs. Please be aware that we are working with VPN providers on behalf of these customers to find a solution. Click here for updates.

The government actively blocks VPNs in the UAE, so it is vital to choose a VPN with strong privacy features. 

In addition, the largest internet service provider (ISP), Etisalat, is now using sophisticated techniques to block 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.

More and more VPNs are being blocked, so it's important to not just pick any VPN if you want to avoid frustration, or worse, get in trouble with the law. Before recommending a VPN for the UAE we ensure they offer:

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.

The Best VPNs for the UAE & Dubai | In-depth Analysis

Due to issues with Etisalat, we highly recommend reading the full summaries below to compare the 5 best VPNs for Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the rest of the UAE:

ExpressVPN is our #1 VPN for UAE. According to reports, this well-known service sometimes works for Etisalat customers. It can also unblock all major VoiP and streaming services.

  • Pricing

    From  $6.67 - $12.95
  • Speeds

    • 68.43 Mbps
  • Kill switch?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes

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 most of the time 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 in full HD without encountering any annoying buffering issues. Plus, this VPN provides access to many of the most popular streaming 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 24/7 via live chat and the software and VPN setup guides are available for all platforms. Finally, it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so that you can test it for yourself completely risk-free. 

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

    From  $3.71 - $11.95
  • Speeds

    • 72.54 Mbps
  • Kill switch?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes

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, BBC 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 offered by NordVPN include 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 an exceptional value for your money and you can test it risk-free for 30-days thanks to its money-back guarantee.

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

    From  $1.89 - $7.12
  • Speeds

    • 34.08 Mbps
  • Kill switch?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes

PrivateVPN was a runner up in the best value category at the ProPrivacy.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. This ensures that 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 60 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. 

IPVanish is a recommended VPN for UAE because it has strong obfuscation options. It also comes fully loaded with other useful features for the UAE, such as a killswitch.

  • Pricing

    From  $6.49 - $10.00
  • Speeds

    • 46.56 Mbps
  • Kill switch?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes

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. 


IPVanish has servers located in over 75 countries, and, because it is fast it can be trusted for doing data-intensive tasks in privacy. Many people want a VPN for video calling with services 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 always decide to cancel within a week of your initial purchase and you'll get your money back.

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

    From  $2.49 - $12.95
  • Speeds

    • 64.65 Mbps
  • Kill switch?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes

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 streaming 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 Surfshark 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.

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The Best VPN for Etisalat Customers

We've been monitoring the Etisalat situation for some time now. In the current climate, it seems that most VPNs, unfortunately, won't work on the service provider. However, we have seen some evidence of Windscribe being one of the few working VPN options for Etisalat.

Windscribe

Try Windscribe >>

Windscribe premium is a Canadian VPN that is packed with useful features like obfuscation (stealth) and a kill switch. Subscribers get access to servers all over the world, unlimited bandwidth, and the ability to connect unlimited devices. Check out our full Windscribe VPN review for more information.

Please bear in mind that this is a fluid situation and successfuly using a VPN service on Etisalat customers is a bit of a hit or miss situation at this point in time. Fortunatley, most VPNs do offer a money-back gaurantee if you do run into difficulties.

For mobile users, we'd advise going with du, seeing as its a provider with far less stringent controls. If you're a residential broadband user, and if du is an option, then you may benefit from switching and getting a wider choice of VPNs. However, if you're limited to Etisalat, you can try Windscribe with their money-back guarantee, or test smaller, lesser known VPN providers that are more likely to remain under the radar.

The fastest VPN for the UAE

If you require a VPN to use VoiP apps such as Skype, or you intend to use it for other data-intensive tasks, such as streaming or torrenting, then you will need to be sure you pick a fast VPN. All of the VPNs we recommend in this guide have servers that are capable of handling most of what you can throw at them. However, to help you undestand what sorts of speeds you can expect, we run daily speed tests on all the VPNs we recommend and display the resutls in the table below.

Place Provider Average Speed Max Speed Visit Site
1. 78.62 Mbit/s 368.72 Mbit/s Visit Site
2. 77.42 Mbit/s 307.03 Mbit/s Visit Site
3. 74.61 Mbit/s 268.41 Mbit/s Visit Site
4. 63.52 Mbit/s 246.00 Mbit/s Visit Site
5. 54.88 Mbit/s 221.60 Mbit/s Visit Site

Why do I need a VPN in 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 elsewhere by connecting to a VPN server outside UAE. This means you can unblock websites that are censored locally by the government. What's more, thanks to VPN encryption all of this can be done in total privacy, without anyone knowing what it is you're doing online, what sites you visit, or that you're bypassing government blocks.

A VPN isn’t just an advantage to UAE citizens who require access to sites subject to local censorship. A VPN also allows you to access geo-restricted websites such as BBC iPlayer, online banking, unblocking Netflix, and much more. 

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

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Top tip: Visiting the UAE

Accessing VPN websites can arouse suspicions if you do so while inside the UAE. If you're planning a trip to the UAE - for business or pleasure - we'd recommend downloading and installing your VPN before you land in the country.

Must have VPN features for UAE

In Dubai and the wider UAE, accessing certain websites can get you in trouble with the police. Voice over IP services face these restrictions. So, if you want to be able to access Skype, Viber or other VoIP services, then it's essential to have the right VPN installed. You'll want to subscribe to a provider that has a selection of important privacy features that might not be necessary in other countries.

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

Testing your VPN is secure

Using a VPN in the UAE isn't illegal, however, using one to access sites that are blocked can land you in hot water. For this reason, it is really important that you periodically test your VPN to make sure that it is secure. 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.

Are VPNs illegal in the UAE?

No, using a VPN in the UAE is legal.

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

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 killswitch, 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 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 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 rumored to be government honeypots designed to catch UAE internet users out! So please 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 moneyback 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.

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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!

Visit ExpressVPN >>

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

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 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 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.

FAQs

Conclusion

Now we have covered all you need to know about safely choosing and using a VPN in the UAE, let's review our top picks.

  1. ExpressVPN - Our #1 best VPN for UAE pick. It's patchy for Etisalat customers but 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. IPVanish - A strong and stealthy VPN for the UAE. It works great with Skype and other VoiP services & has a killswitch as well as DNS leak protection.
  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. 

30 Comments

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?
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
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.
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
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