How to get the best prepaid sim cards in the UAE
- The UAE has two network providers:
- Both networks are state-owned and have good coverage in most parts of the UAE. In 2019 5G also started in major cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 2G network is expected to be shut down in the UAE by the end of 2022.
- There's a lot of internet censorship in the UAE just like in most Arab nations. VoIP services are also very limited. Services like Skype calls, Whatsapp calls, Facetime, Facebook, and Viber calls at banned in the UAE ( VoIP services banned change frequently). In the recent past, the government has lifted the ban on some of these services only to reinstate back a few months later. VoIP services in the UAE need to be registered with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority(TRA). Botim is one of the popular VoIP services registered by the TRA. Other licensed VoIP apps are C'Me, Voico UAE, and HUI messenger. VoIP apps are available for both android and iPhone using either sim card. Users pay an internet calling app service fee of AED 50 monthly to use the apps on mobile data and AED 100 if you'll be using Wi-Fi. To purchase these internet calling apps text ICP to 1012.
- While Etisalat has more users Du sim cards are more popular among tourists. This is partly because Du gives free tourist sim cards to all tourists above 18 years who arrive in the UAE by air.
- Etisalat has 2 sim cards:
- Wasel prepaid sim card.
- Visitor line.
Wasel prepaid sim card is only available to UAE citizens holding a UAE ID. The sim card costs AED 55.
- Visitor line is the Etisalat sim card available to tourists. It costs AED 100 and is only found in airports and Etisalat stores shopping malls. Both Etisalat and Du have stores side by side in the arrival halls of all three terminals at the Dubai airport. Visitor line sim cards are only active for 90 days but you can keep your sim card active by re-registering for AED10. You can later shift from a Visitor line to a Wasel sim card if you stay longer.
- Most vendors in downtown souks in Abu Dhabi and Dubai sell sim cards for almost half the price. In most cases, such sim cards are registered in other people's names, and is best to avoid purchasing such.
- Dubai airport gives free Du sim cards to travelers with transit visas, visitor visas, visas on arrival, and GCC citizens. You'll get these sim cards from the immigration officer and you have to activate them yourself by dialing *122# once you insert the sim card in your phone. Follow the instructions.
Free tourist sim cards are only active for 30 days and will be deactivated once you exit the UAE. You can later on get a permanent sim card once the free sim card expires and you're still in the UAE.