Traveling to Dubai soon? The first thing I recommend to you is to buy Best Prepaid SIM card in UAE for Tourists upon arrival. A SIM card with data, like most other things in Dubai, is expensive! In this blog post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about a Dubai tourist SIM card: where to buy it, prices updated in October 2021, the best network, and I’ll also show you which prepaid SIM card because Dubai is the best.
First I will explain more about Best Prepaid SIM card in UAE and where to buy one in Dubai then I will give all information to buy SIM cards at Dubai DXB Airport.
Why buy a SIM card in Dubai?
If there’s one place in the world that tourists can go without a local SIM card, it’s Dubai. There is WiFi EVERYWHERE and it is FAST and RELIABLE. Dubai Mall claims to have the FASTEST PUBLIC WIFI IN THE WORLD. However, things get a little more complicated when you want to order a taxi on the street or when you travel. Having an internet connection on your phone just makes life easier.
What if you’re on the beach and the hotel’s wifi doesn’t reach your beach chair? Just don’t depend on other people and buy a local SIM card. It’s quick and easy… unfortunately it’s also expensive.
Buy a SIM card for Dubai online
You can now also order a prepaid SIM card for Dubai directly online via Simoptions:
- $49.90 USD = 10 GB of data in UAE for 14 days
This UAE SIM card will be sent to your home address and will be activated automatically from the first use. This means that as soon as the plane lands, you put the SIM card in your phone and it starts working.
E-SIM for Dubai
Another option is to apply for an e-SIM card for Dubai. This means that you do not have to physically change your SIM card, but that you get a so-called e-SIM card in your phone. Simple, fast, and easy! e-SIM cards are data only and are offered by Burj Mobile. They work on the Etisalat and DU networks and ensure the best possible data connection.
- $15 USD = 1GB for 7 days
- $45 USD = 3GB for 30 days
- $60 USD = 5GB for 30 days
Best Prepaid SIM card in UAE and Dubai
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’ve researched local tourist SIM cards in nearly 70 countries. Even expensive countries like Switzerland, Norway, Finland are much cheaper than data SIM cards in Dubai! A Dubai SIM card unfortunately offers little value for money.
However, buying a local SIM card in Dubai is still much cheaper than the recommended international SIM cards. Read my article on ‘the best (most are still crappy) international SIM cards for world travelers!
Best 5G network in UAE and Dubai in 2021
To see which of the 2 mobile operators has the best mobile network, I compared the two coverage maps. Nowadays 3G is NOT enough, we expect at least 4G and if possible 5G. So I used the UAE 5G coverage maps for Etisalat and Du from https://nperf.com.
Etisalat also has the best 5G network in the UAE! In Abu Dhabi and Dubai, there is 5G.
Going off the beaten track in the UAE? Etisalat is Dubai’s best prepaid SIM card for tourists!
Where to buy a Best Prepaid SIM card in UAE?
There are two options to buy a Dubai tourist SIM card. You can wait until you reach the city and go to a nearby Etisalat or Du store or buy a UAE SIM card at Dubai Airport. You will find an Etisalat or Du store in almost every shopping center in Dubai, so buying a SIM card in Dubai is easy.
There is not much difference in price to buy a SIM card in Dubai city or at the airport. Selling prepaid SIM cards at Etisalat and Du stores in malls is NOT a big deal. Offers are very limited.
I recommend tourists to buy Dubai SIM cards at DXB airport!
Have your passport handy when you buy a UAE SIM card in Dubai, they need it for the SIM card registration!
How to Best Prepaid SIM card in UAE City Vs. Dubai Airport
As I just said, it is advisable to buy a Dubai SIM card at Dubai Airport, but in case you missed this opportunity, I will also give you information about the prepaid data packages available in any of the malls of Dubai.
UAE SIM Card Prices in Dubai City
My search for the Best Prepaid SIM card in UAE was very easy as there are only 2 mobile internet operators in UAE. But NOW there is a GREAT ALTERNATIVE! Keep reading…
Du Dubai SIM card prices
Du Dubai prepaid SIM card prices in the shops in Dubai malls are the same as at the airport. They offer a free DU sim prepaid SIM card for the UAE, which you can recharge with 3 data packs:
- 39 AED ($11) = 2 GB of data for 28 days.
- 69 AED ($19) = 4 GB of data for 28 days.
- 89 AED ($24) = 6 GB of data for 28 days.
The same applies to 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 shops around Dubai, for example in shopping centers. These are the latest prices as of October 2021, check their website for the latest prepaid offers from Du.
Etisalat Dubai SIM card prices
At any Etisalat store in Dubai, you can buy the following prepaid sim cards for tourists in the UAE. An Etisalat prepaid SIM card normally costs 55 AED ($15) (excl. 5% VAT), but is almost always offered for FREE!
PLEASE NOTE: 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) = 750MB of data + 40 minutes for 7 days.
- WASEL GO XL – 75 AED ($21) = 750MB of data + 40 minutes for 7 days.
Prices are exclusive of 5% VAT.
The above Etisalat Dubai SIM card details are only valid in the UAE. If you travel abroad, you will be charged roaming charges. All of the above information is current as of October 2021. For the latest Etisalat prepaid offers, check their website.
Best Prepaid SIM card in UAE for tourists
Du offers much more value for money compared to relatively expensive Etisalat! That’s why Du is the best prepaid SIM card in UAE.
At the beginning of the article, I already mentioned that it is best to buy your Dubai SIM card at Dubai Airport DXB. You will find several Dubai SIM card vendors in each terminal, which makes buying a SIM card at Dubai Airport a simple process.
For my research on the best-prepaid sim card for tourists in Dubai airport, I checked all the outlets. Fortunately, SIM card prices in Dubai are the same for all terminals. So no matter which terminal you arrive at DXB Airport, you will find the same SIM cards for Dubai tourists.
In each terminal you will find the following shops that sell prepaid SIM cards in Dubai to tourists:
- Virgin Mobile
- Duty-Free Shops in Dubai
When purchasing a SIM card at Dubai Airport in Terminal 1, expect long lines! Terminals 2 and 3 were not that busy.
Dubai Airport DXB
Dubai Airport is one of my favorites around the world. Excellent free wifi, very spacious and quite smooth for traffic. I have to say it gets pretty busy these days.
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 of Terminal 1, which handles most other intercontinental flights. There is also a 5-minute shuttle bus service between terminals 1 and 3.
Terminal 2 is quite far away and is not connected or connected to Terminals 1 and 3. You need to take a taxi to get to Terminal 2. All FlyDubai and other budget airlines are served in Terminal 2 at DXB Airport.
Free SIM card at Dubai Airport
Yes, this is true! Nowadays you get a free SIM card at Dubai Airport! At passport control, the customs officer will return your passport, including a package with a free Du Dubai SIM card.
Looks like a winner, but don’t get too excited. Yes, the SIM card is free, but it only comes with:
- 20MB of data
- 3 minutes talk time
With that credit, you don’t even reach your baggage claim, because as soon as you look at your phone, your credit is gone!
A smart move by Du Dubai is to give all visitors a free Dubai SIM card. But still, you will have to cover this Dubai SIM card with credit, otherwise, you will not get anywhere. More on Du Dubai charging later in this article.
If you go through the automatic passport scanner at customs, you will not receive a free SIM card! You will have to go to a booth with an official to get your free SIM card.
Du Dubai prepaid SIM card for tourists
The free Dubai SIM card provided at customs is a Du SIM card, but you will also get a free Dubai SIM card at any Du store in the Arrivals Halls of Terminal 1, 2, and 3. The prices for data packages from October 2021 are as follows:
- 50 AED ($14) = 2GB + 30 minutes – Valid for 28 days.
- 80 AED ($22) = 4 GB + 30 minutes – Valid for 28 days.
- 100 AED ($27) = 6GB + 30 minutes – Valid for 28 days.
The above SIM card details are only valid within the UAE, the calling minutes can be used to call any number in the world. Unlimited calls to another DU number are included with every DU prepaid SIM card package.
Etisalat SIM card prices at Dubai Airport
There is an Etisalat store in terminals 1,2 and 3 at DXB airport and they sell prepaid SIM cards in Dubai to tourists. They now offer a new sim for Etisalat visitors:
- 125 AED ($34) = 6 GB of data + 120 minutes – Valid for 28 days.
- 200 AED ($56) = 22.5 GB of data + 525 minutes – Valid for 28 days.
But you can also choose one of the standard Etisalat prepaid SIM card packages:
- 49 AED ($13) = 2 GB of data + 30 minutes – Valid for 28 days.
- 79 AED ($22) = 4 GB of data + 30 minutes – Valid for 28 days.
Data from all of the above Etisalat Dubai SIM cards can only be used in the UAE, which allows you to call and text credit to any number in the world.
Etisalat add-on/loads are available, but 1 GB OR 50 minutes of talk time is still a crappy 50 AED ($14). I said Dubai SIM cards are expensive!
When choosing between a Du and Etisalat SIM card for Dubai, the prices are the same for 2GB and 4GB prepaid SIM cards. However, a SIM card with 6 GB of data is 25 AED cheaper than Etisalat in October 2021.
But there’s more… I already told you that it was worth buying a SIM card at Dubai airport because nowadays there is also Virgin Mobile.
Virgin Mobile Dubai Tourist Prepaid SIM Card
Operating on the Du network, Virgin Mobile Dubai has brought a breath of fresh air to Dubai’s rather closed mobile internet market. They offered a much better cost-benefit ratio and fueled the market in the UAE. Of course, Du and Etisalat reacted and lowered their prices.
These are the Virgin Mobile SIM cards available at Dubai Airport from October 2021:
- 150 AED ($41) = 21 GB of data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes – Valid for 7 days.
- 200 AED ($54) = 40 GB of data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes – valid for 10 days.
- 300 AED ($82) = 75 GB of data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes – valid for 15 days.
Virgin Mobile also offers more packages for 28 days, including international minutes, see image below.
In October 2021, the situation changed 180 degrees. Where Virgin Mobile used to be Dubai’s best SIM card, they have now become the most expensive option for tourists. However, for large volumes, large GB data packages are still the cheapest SIM card in Dubai.
Duty-Free Shops in Dubai
Some duty-free shops in Dubai sell Virgin Mobile SIM cards (at the same prices), but most only sell Etisalat packs. Another place where you can buy a SIM card at Dubai airport. Although I recommend going to one of the official stores as they specialize in tourist sim cards.
Best Prepaid SIM card in UAE in Dubai for tourists
This used to be an easy decision. Virgin Mobile has always been by far the Best Prepaid SIM card in UAE for tourists. However, the situation has changed and Du and Etisalat are much cheaper when it comes to standard SIM cards with data: like 2.4 or 6 GB.
Du and Etisalat differ by only 1 AED for a 2 or 4 GB data package. However, Du offers 6GB per 100 AED ($27) making it the best buy. Therefore…
DU is Best Prepaid SIM card in UAE in 2021!
Etisalat still has the best mobile network in the UAE, but the DU is not far behind and has equal coverage in all tourist destinations in the UAE.