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.
What are the best VPNs to use in UAE?
These are the best VPN services that still work in the UAE.
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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 restricts VPN access in the UAE to prevent people from using VoIP services. UAE ISP, Etisalat, is using advanced methods to block VPNs and, as a result, few VPNs still function in UAE. Fellow UAE ISP DU also attempts to block VPN usage. Because of UAE VPN blocks, it is imperative that you pick a VPN provider that is actively working to bypass blocks.
In this article, we've pinpointed the VPNs that still work in the UAE and have detailed which ISPs they currently work with.
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:
- Strong & well-implemented encryption
- A zero-logging policy
- Servers in key locations
- DNS leak protection
- Useful features like obfuscation
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 & Dubai in 2020
These are the best VPNs to use in the UAE & Dubai currently:
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The Best VPN for Etisalat Customers
We are closely monitoring the situation on the ground in the UAE. We have someone in location performing tests to find out whether VPNs are still working there. As you are aware, Etisalat is working alongside the government to prevent VPNs from working. The government has a strong vested interest in preventing people from accessing restricted sites and services. Thankfully, a handful of providers are still managing to evade these blocks. And, our testing suggests [[post-object type="gotolink" provider="windscribe"]]Windscribe[[/post-object]] is still providing a working connection for Etisalat customers.
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[[post-object type="gotolink" provider="windscribe"]]Windscribe[[/post-object]] is a Canadian VPN provider that is recognized across the industry for providing a secure service and excellent unblocking capabilities. It has apps for all platforms with strong OpenVPN encryption to secure your data. It also has a kill-switch and obfuscation to conceal VPN use from your ISP and the government. If you subscribe, you will get access to a network of servers situated worldwide. And you will be able to use the VPN on an unlimited number of servers. Check out our full Windscribe VPN review for more information.
Because Etisalat works closely with the UAE government to block as many VPNs as possible, the situation is like a game of cat and mouse. As a result, things could change overnight. If you subscribe to any of the VPNs in this article and they are not working, please inform us and seek a refund. All of our recommendations have a money-back guarantee of up to 30-days, which means there is no risk to you if you choose to test them with your Etisalat internet.
If you are a mobile user, we tend to recommend changing onto Du if you want to be able to use a VPN. Du is an ISP that doesn't try to block VPN servers 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 that are available to you.
However, if you're limited to Etisalat, you can [[post-object type="gotolink" provider="windscribe"]]try Windscribe[[/post-object]] with their money-back guarantee, or test smaller, lesser-known VPN providers that are more likely to have remained under the radar.
The fastest VPN for the UAE
Anybody living in the UAE who wants to use a VPN to unblock VoIP apps like Skype will need to ensure they subscribe to a fast VPN. Many VPNs have slow servers that are not good for streaming, gaming, and videoconferencing on Zoom or Skype. No matter which VoIP app or game you want to use, it is vital that you stick to a VPN that not only works but also provides fast speeds.
All the VPNs in this guide are known to be super fast. However, you can check the table below to find out how the VPN is performing right now!
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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?
In the UAE, the government enforces online censorship. The government also controls the local telecoms industry, which has resulted in VoIP apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and Zoom being banned.
With a VPN, you can unblock any websites or services that have been purposefully restricted. Furthermore, a VPN provides encryption so that your ISP and the government are unable to track what you are doing online. This added privacy means that you can use VoIP or access blocked websites without fear of being monitored.
In addition to letting you bypass censorship, a VPN can let you get around international geo-restrictions. As a result, you can watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK, access other British TV channels like ITV Hub - or stream more content on Netflix US, for example. A VPN will also let you unblock regionally restricted YouTube videos, or listen to geo-restricted songs and podcasts on Apple Music or Spotify.
Below we have included a list of reason why you might want to use a VPN in the UAE:
- Digital Privacy: In the UAE it is illegal to access a lot of online content. If you are a journalist, a student – or somebody interested in global affairs and news – you can ensure private access to websites that are restricted by the government when 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, then a VPN for UAE is the solution. A VPN can unblock virtually any website you want to unblock from around the world.
- 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.
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.
Must have VPN features for 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.
- Strong OpenVPN encryption
Encryption is the part of the VPN software that conceal what you are doing from the ISP and the government.
A kill-switch stops you from leaking unencrypted traffic to your ISP should the VPN connection drop out for any reason. This is vital if you don’t want to reveal to your ISP that you are visiting a restricted website.
- Stealth mode
Also known as obfuscated servers or obfuscation. This feature disguises your encrypted traffic as regular HTTPS. Although encrypted traffic is private, it can be enough to draw suspicion. Obfuscation stops the ISP from even knowing VPN encryption is happening.
- DNS leak protection
DNS requests will let your ISP know what you are doing online, even if the VPN is connected, and the encryption is working. In the UAE, we strongly recommend disabling IPv6 (please use IPv4 only) as this is much better for your privacy and security and will stop you having WebRTC leaks.
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, 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 that could lead to an investigation, fines, 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 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 we recommend taking precautions to prevent anybody from realizing you are using a VPN.
Downloading your VPN
If you are visiting the UAE from another country, it is recommended that you download and install your VPN software before you land in the UAE. VPN sites are often blocked in the UAE, so accessing one 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):
- DNS leak protection
- Stealth mode (obfuscation)
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!
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!
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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
- All Voice over IP apps
UAE VPNs for Skype, WhatsApp, and Facetime
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.
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.
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."
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!
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Can I be tracked when using a VPN in the UAE?" answer="You can if you use a VPN that doesn't provide the necessary privacy and security protections. The problem is that many VPNs out there lack adequate privacy and security features and can leave you high and dry with little protection. Each VPN provider listed in this guide, however, will offer all the necessary security and privacy to ensure that you won't be tracked while using them in the UAE." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Do any VPNs have UAE servers?" answer="Sadly, very few VPNs have servers in the UAE. It's expensive to rent servers in the UAE, and worse still, it'll likely result in a warrant from the authorities. Most VPNs will provide virtual IP addresses in the UAE using clever DNS routing tricks. So, you'll still be able to get your hands on a local UAE IP address from outside of the country. It's best to check with your preferred service to ensure it can provide you with an IP address in the UAE." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="What is the penalty for being caught using a VPN in UAE?" answer="You will not receive a penalty by proxy if you use a VPN in the UAE. VPN usage is legal in the UAE, and you'll only face repercussions if you use your VPN to access restricted or censored content – this is because the government has specifically blocked and outlawed this material. For this reason, it is essential to only use a secure VPN with strong privacy features if you intend to access any illegal content with your VPN. " /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="What can I do to avoid being caught using a VPN in UAE?" answer="The best way to avoid being caught using a VPN in the UAE is to stick to one of the VPNs we highlighted in this article. Our top picks have strong privacy policies that promise to <a href='/vpn/comparison/best-no-logs-vpns'>keep zero-logs</a>. Additionally, these providers all offer secure connections that properly handle DNS requests and internet traffic with complete privacy. We'd also recommend enabling the kill switch and DNS leak protection as soon as you've installed your VPN. However, if you are concerned, you could also use a WebRTC blocking extension, and turn on VPN cloaking to ensure your ISP does not know you are encrypting your traffic. " /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Is it safe to use a VPN in UAE?" answer="You should be safe in the UAE so long as you follow a few tips – stick to a reputable VPN provider, and always make use of an available kill switch and obfuscation technologies such as obfsproxy, stunnel, XOR or even just TCP over port 443. If you're intending to <a href='/vpn/comparison/best-bbc-iplayer-vpn'>unblock BBC iPlayer</a> or <a href='/vpn/comparison/unblock-netflix-vpn'>watch US Netflix</a> (websites that are not specifically illegal in UAE) you should never need to worry about using a VPN." /]]
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.
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