The use of UAE VPNs in Dubai and beyond is a huge debate – while the government and networks such as Etisalat and Du impose significant censorship on the internet and attempt to restrict personal VPN usage, virtual private networks cannot be banned outright due to how essential they are to businesses.
However, although having a UAE VPN for Dubai isn't illegal, there are laws in place to control what they are used for. However, the country's banning of free VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp and Facetime has led many individuals to seek out working VPNs to avoid the networks' monopoly on voice calls and contact their friends and family for free.
The best Dubai VPN will also allow you to access restricted websites and avoid the government's well-documented monitoring of online activity – plus you might also want to watch all the exclusive shows and movies on US Netflix, too.
However, UAE VPN users aren't just residents – those that have settled permanently, and people travelling for work or on holiday will also be subjected to the same restrictions and surveillance, so they'll need to have a VPN service if they want to access sites like they do at home.
Note: For travellers, we strongly recommend installing a VPN before you leave home, as this will ensure you'll be able to set up and use the service properly.
What makes the best UAE VPN?
Seeing as the uses for a UAE VPN are incredibly varied, the best VPN for Dubai and beyond should be able to do it all. For users looking to access VoIP services and avoid network restrictions, obfuscated servers that mask VPN usage will be essential. This is because if you're detected using a VPN, you still won't get access to the apps or sites you want.
Restriction of certain sites can vary frequently – often day by day – so you'll need a VPN with a track record of being reliable in the UAE. There's no point in paying money for a service and finding out in a week that you can't access what you bought it for. This is also where having 24/7 live chat support can be hugely useful.
Excellent privacy is also a top priority. As the government takes a strong stance against VPN usage, if you choose to use one, you'll want to stay anonymous so that you can't be personally identified by anyone who's looking. Military-grade encryption, zero-logging policies and a choice of protocols are signs of VPNs that take privacy seriously.
At the top of our list is ExpressVPN. Widely regarded as the best UAE VPN for Dubai and the rest of the country, its stealthy servers, great speeds and excellent support mean it's a reliable way of accessing restricted content in the UAE and Dubai. However, there are a number of other options, so scroll on to find out which UAE VPN for Dubai is best for you.
The best five UAE VPNs you can get today
If you're looking for the best UAE VPN that can do it all, ExpressVPN should be your choice. It provides great connection speeds on servers all over the world, and is known to avoid VPN-blocking tech employed by the UAE network providers.
Express also provides excellent privacy, with AES-256 encryption, a selection of protocols to choose from, plus IPv6 leak protection and a kill switch. However, just keeping the apps on their automatic settings will provide the perfect combination of speed and security.
Alongside great privacy, Express is also great for unblocking geo-restricted streaming services – you'll be able to browse US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and access live sporting events from around the world. All you need to do is select a server in a country of your choice, and you'll be able to stream it as if you were there in person.
A UAE VPN also needs great support as restrictions seem to be constantly changing, and Express has perfected it. You'll be able to talk to a real person 24/7 – they usually reply in a matter of seconds – and ask them any question you want about the service. If your connection isn't working you should be able to get help, and Express also has a dedicated UAE page on its support site.
What sets ExpressVPN apart, though, is how it combines these premium features and presents it in a genuinely simple and easy-to-use package. The apps are totally plug and play, and even newbies can get protected in seconds – plus a 30-day money-back guarantee means you can test the service for free to make sure it works.
If we had to find a fault, it'd be that Express does only have five simultaneous connections – meaning you'll only be able to use the VPN on five devices at a time. However, that should be more than enough for most people, and it's a sacrifice we'd be willing to make to get the very best UAE VPN on the market.
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As the full package, ExpressVPN is the best option for those in the United Arab Emirates, and now it's even better value with 49% off plus three months free – that's 15 months for the price of 12. Combine that with a 30-day money-back guarantee and you've got a great-value package with the best UAE VPN money can buy.
As one of the biggest and best-known VPN providers out there, it's no wonder NordVPN works great as a UAE VPN. With tons of servers – with some located in the UAE – users have a huge selection to choose from.
Nord's security-focused approach pays dividends when it comes to staying safe in Dubai and the UAE, and its double 2048-bit encryption ensures your browsing will stay truly private. Alongside that are options like DNS leak protection, two kill switches and Onion over VPN, which all combine to create a seriously solid security solution.
It's not all work and no play with Nord, though, as it has great streaming power. You'll be able to unblock Netflix, iPlayer and more, plus other sites restricted by Etisalat and Du.
Great connection speeds mean that you won't be waiting around, and apps for pretty much every device allows you to stay protected wherever you are.
However, one of the few downsides is the design of the mobile apps. They retain the map-based interface from the desktop clients, but on smaller screens this doesn't work quite as well. This is a small issue, though, and one unlikely to cause any real problems.
Although not as well-rounded as ExpressVPN, NordVPN provides an excellent UAE VPN service that we highly recommend.
Head over to NordVPN's website to sign up.
For many, Surfshark could provide the perfect UAE VPN experience – it's cheap, simple, and gets the job done. While you won't have all the in-depth features of Express or Nord, you'll still have good security and great speeds to browse day-to-day.
Surfshark isn't weak by any means, and with AES-256 encryption, double-hop and split tunnelling it actually offers a number of privacy features you wouldn't expect at this price-point – great for staying anonymous if you want to browse restricted sites.
For those looking to stream, Surfshark's also got you covered, and you'll be able to access Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu and more. In fact, Surfshark's a better streaming VPN than many more expensive rivals.
Rounded off with simple, attractive apps, that's pretty much all you need to know about Surfshark – it's fully-featured, great for streaming and will keep you secure online. It might not be a super-configurable powerhouse, but many users don't need that. And, for less than $2 a month, we're not complaining.
Head over to Surfshark's website to sign up.
Well-known for its free version, VPN provider Hotspot Shield's paid version functions well as a UAE VPN. (As an aside, while the free version may work, the full version gives users access to streaming services and all servers, so is definitely worth testing out with the free trial.)
Hotspot Shield uses its own proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol which delivers its famously blazing speeds – on a high-speed connection it can deliver speeds twice as quick as any others on this list, and this also earns it a place as one of the best US VPNs.
However, there are a few drawbacks – while it can avoid the UAE's stringent VPN restrictions, Hotspot Shield is unable to access Amazon Prime Video, and it's only available on the basic PC and mobile operating systems. If you're after a VPN to install on your Xbox or smart TV, you'll have to look elsewhere.
If that's fine with you – we know the raw speed is tempting – Hotspot Shield is a worthy UAE VPN. And, to top it off, it offers a 45-day money-back guarantee, so you can give it a proper test run before you commit.
Head over to Hotspot Shield's website to sign up.
VyprVPN is a smaller provider, but is one of the few to state on its website that it's a working UAE VPN.
Like all the VPNs on this page but very few others, VyprVPN clearly states its ability to access restricted content. This commitment to help those in the UAE avoid censorship is a good sign, and means it should be diligent when maintaining the service. What's more, Vypr is also a great China VPN, which similarly restricts its citizens' internet access.
Vypr prioritises its users' security, and has been verified as a zero-logging VPN – that means the service never collects any data that can identify users, which is important for personal privacy online. You'll also get good connection speeds and VyprVPN is effective at unblocking pretty much every streaming service.
However, it's not further up this list because it's simply not as polished. The apps, while usable, are somewhat basic and the Windows client is especially clunky. While that doesn't affect the VPN's performance, it does detract from the experience.
However, VyprVPN offers excellent value, and we can't put higher praise on its zero-logging credentials. If that's what you're looking for in your UAE VPN, Vypr could be a good choice.
Head over to VyprVPN's website to sign up.
UAE/Dubai VPN FAQs
Are VPNs illegal in UAE?
No. Having a VPN is not illegal in UAE. Businesses rely on them too much for the government to ban them outright.
However, using a VPN to access restricted content is a grey area, and those using a VPN for the "purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery" risk a fine of up to AED2,000,000 – equivalent to over $500,000.
It is, however, fairly safe to say that the UAE is more concerned about preventing terrorism and large-scale crime than it is about individuals accessing restricted content – and we can find no evidence of anyone ever being prosecuted for that reason.
We do not condone using a VPN to break the law. We also believe in the freedom of information and the internet. If you choose to use a VPN, for whatever reason, it's important to assess the risks to see if you think it's worth it.
Why do you need a UAE VPN?
People use VPNs in UAE for a number of reasons.
Firstly, internet access is censored and restricted, and a VPN can allow the user to access this content.
Secondly – and probably the most common reason – is that Etisalat and Du hold a monopoly on the VoIP market, meaning free apps like Whatsapp and Messenger cannot be used to call people for free. A UAE VPN can allow individuals to use these free services for a much lower monthly cost compared to the state-sanctioned providers.
Thirdly, streaming. With a VPN you can access streaming media, including Netflix, live sports, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and more. This is especially useful for expats as media from their home country is likely to be blocked. A VPN can virtually relocate them back home and give them access to this media.
What VPNs work in UAE?
Other than ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark, Hotspot Shield and VyprVPN, not many. Thanks to the UAE's tough restrictions on VPN usage, many VPN providers – including larger ones – have been effectively disabled. While they're great in the rest of the world, in the UAE and Dubai they simply don't work.
The five on this list mostly work thanks to obfuscated servers that can evade VPN detection. This basically means that anyone inspecting web traffic won't be able to tell that a certain connection is using a VPN.
While some other providers may work, we believe these five offers citizens and travellers the best chance at accessing what they want to when in the UAE.
Can you get a free UAE VPN for Dubai?
If you want a free UAE VPN, you should take a look at our rundown of the best free VPNs. However, from this list of the best UAE VPNs, only Hotspot Shield offers a free service.
We'd highly recommend using a paid-for service in countries like the UAE that have strict censorship laws. This is because in most cases you'll want to have your VPN switched on all of the time, and free VPNs almost always come with data limits – Hotspot Shield is generous with 500Mb a day, while TunnelBear provides a tiny 500Mb a month.
Also, paid-for VPNs give you the widest selection or servers, and you can be absolutely sure that they'll consistently unblock sites. While a free VPN might not cost any money, it might not work properly and, at worst, leak your information and compromise your online privacy.
Finally, all the best Dubai VPNs on this list offer at least 30-day money-back guarantees, so even though you will have to pay to get access, you'll be able to get your money back within 30 days if the service turns out not to be for you – no questions asked.