In an era of constant connectivity, choosing the right internet provider can feel like finding a needle in a digital haystack.

Especially in the UAE, where the options for unlimited internet SIM cards are bountiful.

In this article, we’ll dig through the digital clutter, comparing the best providers to bring you the ultimate guide to unlimited internet SIM cards in the UAE.

Navigating the World of Unlimited Internet SIM Cards in UAE

Anyone over the age of 18 can buy Emirati SIM cards in Dubai, one of the major cities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The UAE has only two mobile operators, Etisalat and Du, and two MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), Swyp UAE and Virgin Mobile UAE.

Swyp UAE is an Etisalat UAE MVNO and Virgin Mobile UAE is a Du MVNO.

The city is certainly known for being expensive, and buying a SIM card is no exception.

Here you can get a local SIM card for as little as AED 55 ($15) and as high as AED 99 ($27).

Paying $15 isn’t cheap; even worse, the roaming rates are exorbitant.

But despite all that, you will be happy to enjoy the fastest mobile download speed in the world.

The average mobile download speed in the UAE is 190 Mbps, currently the fastest on Earth.

Buy A SIM Card To Dubai Online

You can now also go ahead and get the prepaid SIM card to Dubai directly online via Simoptions:

$49.90 = 10GB data in UAE for 14 days

This UAE SIM card will be sent to your home address and will be automatically activated on first use. This means that as soon as the plane lands, you put the SIM card in the 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 will receive 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 Etisalat and DU networks and ensure the best possible data connection.

$15 = 1GB for seven days

$45 = 3GB for 30 days

$60 = 5GB for 30 days

The Best Prepaid SIM Card In UAE And Dubai

Unfortunately, there are only two mobile internet operators in Dubai: Du and Etisalat.

This means there is no competition, and there are extremely high prices given the fact that the UAE is already deemed to be one of the most expensive countries in the world, even when it comes to prepaid SIM cards.

Even expensive countries like Switzerland, Norway, and Finland are much cheaper than data SIM cards in Dubai!

Unfortunately, the Dubai SIM card offers little value for money.

However, buying a local SIM card in Dubai is still much cheaper than some of the recommended international SIM cards.

But How Expensive Are SIM Cards In This Country?

You can get an Emirati SIM card from as little as AED 55 ($15) to AED 99 ($27) at mobile operator stores (Etisalat – also for Swyp, Du & Virgin Mobile) or authorized retailers.

SIM cards are also available at Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah airports.

$15 per sim card? It’s definitely not cheap.

As I said, it’s not a cheap country. But international roaming rates here? They are criminals.

However, you in the UAE you will experience the fastest mobile downloads worldwide.

There is NOT much difference in the UAE between buying a DU or Etisalat prepaid SIM card as they are more or less the same. Both expensive. Expect to pay around $4 per GB.

An international SIM card is a potential alternative. There are some great deals on sim cards for travelling to Dubai. These pre-activated sim cards will be sent to your home address before your trip.

Make sure your phone is unlocked, as foreign SIM cards only operate on unlocked phones. If you are unsure, please contact your home country provider before travelling to Dubai.

Where To Buy The Best Prepaid SIM Card In UAE?

There are two main options for buying a Dubai Tourist SIM card.

You can wait until you arrive in the city and go to a nearby Etisalat or Du store or buy a UAE SIM card at the Dubai airport.

You can find an Etisalat or Du store in almost every mall in Dubai, so buying a SIM card in Dubai is easy.

There is not much difference in price when buying a SIM card in Dubai city or at the airport. Etisalat and Du stores selling prepaid SIM cards in malls is NOT a big deal. Offers are very limited.

Have your passport handy when buying a UAE SIM card in Dubai. They need it to register the SIM card!

How To Get The Best Prepaid SIM Card In UAE City Vs Dubai Airport

As mentioned, it is convenient to buy a Dubai SIM card at the airport in Dubai, but if you miss this opportunity, below we’ll give you information about the prepaid data plans available at shopping malls in Dubai.

The Best Prepaid SIM Card In The UAE For Tourists

Du offers much more value for money compared to the relatively expensive Etisalat!

This is why Du is considered to be the best prepaid SIM card in the UAE.

At the beginning of the article, we had already mentioned that it is best to buy a Dubai SIM card at the Dubai airport DXB.

You will find multiple Dubai SIM card vendors in each terminal, making buying a SIM card at Dubai airport simple.

Fortunately, SIM card prices in Dubai are the same for all terminals. So whichever terminal you arrive at the 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:

  • DU
  • Etisalat
  • Virgin Mobile

Etisalat

Etisalat is the largest wireless operator in the United Arab Emirates. It is also the winner of the prestigious award for the world’s fastest mobile network in 2020.

The operator is also considered by many to be the best mobile operator in the country in all parameters. Etisalat also operates in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The company operates 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE and 5G networks with the best network coverage in the UAE.

Unfortunately, only 2G or 3G can work in desert areas.

Known as the Wasel Prepaid Line, the Etisalat SIM card is available for AED 55 with 1GB of data, valid for seven days on the first recharge.

It is important to note that passengers and tourists only get visitor lines instead of the Wasel prepaid line when they get a connection from this carrier.

In addition, the validity of your visitor line is tied to the duration of your visa.

However, this does not apply to people on work visas.

They can easily activate a regular Etisalat SIM card and enjoy its many plans’ benefits.

You can even get an Etisalat built-in SIM card for the same price as a regular one.

Note that you can only use eSIM if you have an iPhone XS/XS Max/XR.

Etisalat SIM cards are automatically deactivated when you have not recharged or performed any activity continuously for 12 months.

The mobile service provider supports different recharge options: AED 25, AED 50, AED 100, AED 200 and AED 500. Apart from these increases, the company also has 11 data plans.

You can buy the following prepaid SIM cards for tourists in the UAE at any Etisalat store in Dubai.

Etisalat SIM card prices

An Etisalat prepaid SIM card normally costs AED 55 ($15) (excluding 5% VAT) but is almost always offered for FREE!

PLEASE NOTE: Etisalat prepaid packages are PER WEEK, not monthly!

Etisalat offers the following prepaid packages:

  • WASEL GO M – AED 25 ($7) = 750 MB data + 40 minutes for seven days.
  • WASEL GO L – AED 50 ($14) = 750 MB data + 40 minutes for seven days.
  • WASEL GO XL – AED 75 ($21) = 750MB data + 40 minutes for seven days.

Prices do not include 5% VAT.

The above Etisalat Dubai SIM card details are only valid in UAE.

If you are travelling abroad, you will be charged roaming charges.

You can find the latest Etisalat prepaid service offers on their website.

Du

Du is the second best option in terms of SIM cards in Dubai, UAE. It is mostly popular among the migrant worker community, which was the carrier’s initial target group.

Du works on 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G networks with excellent coverage across the country, although it has poor coverage in desert areas.

The Du SIM is available for as little as AED 55, and you can get the Du eSIM for the same price. However, if you convert your standard Du SIM to a Du eSIM, there will be an upgrade fee of AED 20.

You must have an iPhone 11/11 Pro/11 Pro Max or iPhone XS/XS Max/XR to activate and use Du eSIM.

Du offers Du Visitor SIM for tourists and travellers.

Before the pandemic, Du was giving away its SIM card for free with 20MB of data along with some credit balance.

Your Du SIM card will be automatically deactivated if it remains inactive (no top-up and no activity) for six months.

However, your phone number will remain in the backup for 12 months, even after deactivation. The company offers three data plans along with top-up plans.

Du Dubai SIM card prices

The prices of Du Dubai Prepaid SIM cards in shops in Dubai malls are the same as at the airport. They offer a free prepaid DU sim card for UAE, which you can top up with 3 data packs:

  • AED 39 ($11) = 2GB of data for 28 days.
  • AED 69 ($19) = 4GB of data for 28 days.
  • AED 89 ($24) = 6GB of data for 28 days.

The same applies to call minutes:

  • 10 AED ($3) = 30 minutes for 28 days.
  • AED 69 ($5) = 60 minutes for 28 days.
  • AED 89 ($8) = 90 minutes for 28 days.

You can find all the above prices for the Du SIM card in stores around Dubai, such as shopping malls. These are the latest prices as of October 2021; check their website for the latest prepaid offers from Du.

Virgin Mobile UAE

Virgin Mobile UAE is not only an MVNO that uses Du network coverage but it is also owned by Du.

This is because Virgin Mobile’s mobile infrastructure does not extend into the country.

Virgin Mobile is actually a British multinational telecommunications operator with operations in Europe, the Middle East, Mexico and South America.

You can get the Virgin Mobile SIM card free from official, authorized or partner stores, but they are only sold with a pay-as-you-go plan.

This means you need to spend at least AED 36.75 (plan price) to get a Virgin Mobile SIM card.

Top-up vouchers are available at Virgin Mobile stores, its partner stores, and the Virgin Mobile UAE app.

Virgin Mobile subscribers have recharge options of AED 20, AED 50, AED 100 and AED 200.

The company offers three data plans, all available on the Virgin Mobile UAE app.

In addition, they offer Boosters, i.e. add-ons for data, local minutes and international minutes.

Unfortunately, you cannot buy boosters as separate plans. Virgin Mobile UAE also offers to Build Your Own Plan (BYOP) packages.

As the name suggests, you can configure exactly how much data, international minutes and SMS and local minutes and SMS you will need per month. These packages have a minimum price of AED 79 with a validity of 28 days.

Operating on the Du network, Virgin Mobile Dubai has brought about a breath of fresh air to the rather closed mobile internet market in Dubai.

They offered a much better cost-benefit ratio and drove the market in the UAE recently.

Of course, Du and Etisalat responded by reducing prices.

Virgin Mobile SIM card prices

These are the Virgin Mobile SIM cards available at Dubai Airport as of October 2021:

  • AED 150 ($41) = 21GB data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes – Valid for seven days.
  • AED 200 ($54) = 40GB data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes – Valid for ten days.
  • AED 300 ($82) = 75GB data + 30 minutes + 20 int. minutes – Valid for fifteen days.

Virgin Mobile also offers multiple 28-day packages, including international minutes; see the image below.

In October 2021, the situation changed by 180 degrees.

Where Virgin Mobile was the best SIM card in Dubai, they have now become the most expensive option for tourists.

However, for high volumes, the cheapest SIM card in Dubai is still their large GB data package.

Free SIM Card At Dubai Airport

Yes, this is true!

Now you can get a free SIM card at the Dubai airport!

During passport control, the customs officer will return your passport, including the Du Dubai SIM card package, free of charge.

It looks like a winner, but don’t get too excited. Yes, the SIM card is free, but it only includes the following:

  • 20 MB of data
  • 3 minutes of talk

With this credit, you won’t even reach for your luggage because your credit is gone as soon as you look at your phone!

Du Dubai’s smart move is to give all visitors a free Dubai SIM card. But you’ll still need to cover this Dubai SIM card with credit. Otherwise, you won’t get anywhere. More on Du Dubai charging later in this article.

If you go through the automatic passport scanner at customs, you won’t get a free SIM card! You will need to go to a booth with an official to get a free SIM card.

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 packages. Another place to buy a SIM card is at Dubai Airport. However, we would recommend going to one of the official stores, as they specialize in tourist sim cards.

So Which Is The Best Option?

It used to be an easy decision. Virgin Mobile has always been by far the best prepaid SIM card in the 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 6GB.

Du and Etisalat only differ by 1 AED for a two or 4-GB data pack. However, Du offers 6GB for AED 100 ($27), making it the best buy. Therefore

Du is the best prepaid SIM card in the UAE!

Etisalat is still considered to be one of the best mobile networks in the UAE, but DU is not far behind and has equal coverage in all tourist destinations in the UAE.

Some helpful things to know

The most crucial thing to know about unlimited sim mobile plans is that they don’t really offer unlimited hotspot data.

Even though the plan is called unlimited, it probably limits data (99% guaranteed). With most plans, after using 20GB (or any other amount) of data, your internet speed will slow down to less than 1Mbps. Ouch. You can’t do much with 1Mbps – you can’t even watch TikTok!

Did you know you can get free wifi in the UAE? That is right! Etisalat and Du provide free internet access in many different locations across the UAE.

Here’s how to find and connect to the nearest free wifi hotspots in Dubai and other cities in the UAE.

Connect To Etisalat’s Free Wifi Service In The UAE

First of all, you need to be an Etisalat user to get free Etisalat internet access, of course.

And secondly, you must have one of the data plans prepaid. However, if you don’t subscribe to any of the data packages, you can still get free WiFi for 5 DHS per day.

Etisalat data packs range from 1GB to 10GB, and your free internet depends on these data packs.

Users who have subscribed to the 1GB to 4GB data pack will get 5 hours of free internet. Users who have subscribed to a 4GB to 10GB data pack will get 20 hours of free internet. And users with 10GB or more data get 30 hours of free internet.

Free WiFi hotspots do not require you to have an activated data plan. You only need an Etisalat SIM card to use the service.

Conclusion

From crystal-clear video calls to buffering-free streaming, having the right SIM card in the UAE can make all the difference.

While the choice ultimately depends on your specific needs and preferences, we trust that our comprehensive comparison has made your decision a little less daunting.

Remember, the best connection is not just about speed and price, but also about excellent customer service and reliability.