Best VPN for Dubai and UAE & legal status

If you live in the UAE, you’re undoubtedly already aware of how popular VPNs are for unblocking prohibited websites and applications, such as Skype and WhatsApp, as well as connecting to US Netflix and other streaming services.

Here, we’ll examine the best VPN for Dubai and the rest of the UAE. We’ll go through some of the most frequent worries about using a VPN in the United Arab Emirates and attempt to dispel some of the myths concerning legal difficulties surrounding VPN usage.

PRO TIP: Are you planning a vacation to the United Arab Emirates? Due to the fact that certain VPN websites are prohibited in the UAE, we suggest that you sign up for and download your favorite VPN before visiting.

Travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and specifically to Dubai is becoming more popular. If you do find yourself there for business or pleasure, you may encounter some annoyance while trying to visit many websites. Restricted websites include VoIP services such as Skype and WhatsApp, as well as gambling websites like Betfair and certain Wikipedia articles. The country’s Telecom Regulatory Authority enforces widespread internet restrictions. Surprisingly, TRA is quite upfront about which websites are restricted and why. To access banned websites and applications such as Skype in the UAE, you will require a VPN. However, many will not function.

How we choose the best VPN service for the United Arab Emirates

Our suggestions for the best VPN for Dubai and the rest of the UAE are based on a precise set of criteria. Those presently living in the UAE, in particular, should use VPNs to safely access a huge number of prohibited websites and VoIP services without fear of data breaches that expose which websites or services they are viewing.

We have decided that the top VPN service for UAE and Dubai VPN customers meets the following criteria:

  • Effective encryption.
  • There are no traffic logs.
  • Numerous servers.
  • Protection against DNS leaks.

Additionally, we highlight any providers that use obfuscation to conceal the fact that you are using a VPN at all. Below, we will discuss our testing procedure in further depth.

Expert tip: Certain VPN services are restricted in the UAE, so if you haven’t already signed up, do so before visiting.

The best VPN for the United Arab Emirates and Dubai


NordVPN is an excellent choice for anyone wanting an additional layer of protection. Additionally, this service has a Tor over VPN option. It meets all of our requirements (no-log policy, high-level SSL-2048-bit encryption, and a large variety of servers). Tor is perhaps the most secure way to access the web. NordVPN’s service combines with Tor to provide an incredibly secure and fully encrypted online surfing experience, which is particularly beneficial for people connected from the UAE and Dubai.

Additionally, NordVPN includes a DNS leak resolver that prevents DNS leaks, as well as a process-specific internet kill switch if the service fails or any running software begins leaking data. There are many VPN protocols accessible here, including OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP/IPsec. While NordVPN lacks its own obfuscation mechanism, it does support Obfsproxy. Their website has an instructional video on how to set this up using their service. Additionally, the service has a “double VPN function,” which doubles the encryption, albeit this naturally slows the service down somewhat.

VPN clients are available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, and Android operating systems.

Methodology for picking the best VPN for the United Arab Emirates

The UAE is a popular holiday and business location. However, its government also enforces one of the world’s most draconian internet filtering regulations. If you want unrestricted access to the free web while working or traveling in the UAE, you’ll need a VPN. We assess VPNs for the UAE based on the following criteria:

  • Strong encryption protocols: Due to the UAE’s active blocking of VPNs, any VPN operating in the nation must utilize the best encryption methods feasible, as well as obfuscation techniques to assist users in avoiding discovery.
  • Strict no-logs policy: Accessing some websites in the UAE, particularly for UAE nationals, may be unlawful. Any VPN worth using in the UAE should adhere to a rigorous and certified no-logs policy that safeguards user identification.
  • Leak protection: Given the importance of security and anonymity while using a VPN in the UAE, we prioritized VPNs that guard against all types of data leaks associated with VPNs, including IPv4 and IPv6 leaks, WebRTC leaks, and DNS leaks.
  • Simple installation: The finest VPNs are plug-and-play. Once installed, there should be no other action other than connecting to a server. Misconfigurations may result in data breaches, which is why the best VPN for the UAE should not require the end-user to take any additional action.
  • Wide device support: To prevent being restricted to a single device while in the UAE, you’ll want a VPN that supports all major operating systems (Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android).
  • Simultaneous devices: As with support for numerous operating systems, a decent VPN for the UAE will allow you to connect to its service on several devices simultaneously. This prevents you from being constrained to a single device and enables you to share your VPN with your family.
  • Fast server speed: The quicker the server, the better, particularly if you want to use your VPN to watch movies or upload and download huge files.
  • Streaming services: An effective VPN in the UAE should also allow you to access geo-restricted content on your favorite streaming websites, such as Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video.

Our VPN research is vast. You’ll discover that there are significantly more technical and policy considerations that separate the excellent from the poor when it comes to VPNs and VPN services. We suggest that you investigate our in-depth VPN testing technique.

VPNs to avoid in the United Arab Emirates and Dubai

If you’ve been Googling for the best VPN to use in the UAE, you’ve come across a couple that is best avoided, either because they don’t operate in the UAE or have a history of questionable behavior. There are several terrible VPN providers available, but here are two in particular to avoid:


Hola is a peer-to-peer network that creates a VPN tunnel by using idle bandwidth on other people’s computers. Similarly, other individuals use your bandwidth while you are not. This may expose you to liability for the internet activities of others, which is a significant danger when traveling to the UAE and Dubai. Additionally, the firm has a history of exploiting people’s confidence. It once transformed the entire network’s devices into a massive botnet and used it to launch widespread denial-of-service assaults against websites.


While HMA does not record your behavior or the content of your internet traffic, it does maintain complete metadata user logs that include your actual IP address. The most well-known case is Cody Kretsinger’s arrest, a LulzSec hacker who engaged in a cyber assault on Sony Pictures. HideMyAss surrendered evidence to police following a court order, which resulted in his arrest. While we do not condone Cody’s actions, VPN users should be cautious of HideMyAss’ assurances of “no records.”

Are VPNs legal in the UAE?

Many people utilize a VPN to circumvent these digital content restrictions, conduct that is presently illegal in the nation. Indeed, speculations about the legal ramifications of utilizing a VPN in the nation abound.

Several UAE citizens recently received a text message instructing them to report to a Dubai police station to pay a Dh5,000 charge. This was later shown to be a fabrication. Despite such falsehoods, VPNs continue to be quite popular.

A 2012 cybercrime legislation established in the nation seemed to prohibit just the use of VPNs for illicit behavior. Pornography, anti-religious bigotry, and gambling are often at the top of the list. However, that regulation has been revised and broadened, leaving many VPN users and prospective users in the dark about the new law and whether or not the UAE has implemented a VPN ban. Many people are more perplexed than ever about what constitutes appropriate behavior.

However, between 2012 and 2016, TRA blacklisted a few, if any, VPN services that enabled users to access prohibited internet content, demonstrating that the nation is not actively banning or reporting these sites. Despite restrictions on services like Skype, several local retailers offer VoIP cards that enable the usage of Voice Over IP services. It seems as if a deaf ear is being paid to what may be considered minor violations since a large number of individuals utilize Skype and other “restricted” VoIP services using a VPN.

Having said that, the present adjustment to the statute is novel and should be properly monitored. There are several VPN uses in the UAE and Dubai, the majority of which fall under the country’s legal gray area, such as accessing geographically restricted content through streaming video websites such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video.

UAE’s content and virtual private network (VPN) legislation

The UAE’s internet content filtering rules are excessively complicated, but they are divided into two categories: religious beliefs and economic protection.

The religious principles component of this is quite self-evident. The United Arab Emirates’ governance system is complex, with an absolute monarchy at the helm. The laws are a synthesis of Sharia and secular civic values.

As the country’s laws are heavily influenced by Sharia, the Telecom Regulatory Authority’s internet content ban makes sense in light of the UAE’s institutionalized Muslim belief system, even if it is less extreme than in other mostly Muslim nations such as Iran or Saudi Arabia.

The TRA states that content that “contradicts the UAE’s ethics and morals” is forbidden altogether. This includes the following:

  • pornography
  • VoIP-related websites and services (Skype)
  • gambling
  • websites that promote anti-religious hatred
  • websites devoted to the manufacture, delivery, and sale of illicit narcotics
  • content that often contradicts the majority Sunni population’s views
  • Numerous Wikipedia articles
  • Websites in Israel

The TRA publishes annual data on its content filtering initiative:

2016 amendments to the VPN legislation

The UAE modified its cybercrime statute in early 2016 to include more VPN use. The statute states:

“Whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address (IP address) through the use of a false address or a third-party address or any other means to commit a crime or prevent its discovery shall be punished with temporary imprisonment and a fine of not less than Dhs 500,000 (USD $136,128.51) and not more than Dhs 2,000,000 (USD $544,514.04), either of these penalties.”

Numerous tales emerged shortly after this revision, which seemed to expand the scope of the statue to cover all VPN use. This has not been the case, though. Indeed, VPN use is quite prevalent in the UAE and Dubai. As indicated by TRA’s content filtering data, the majority of websites are not often blocked, except those that violate ethical regulations. This also applies to VPN services. Nonetheless, as long as your VPN is using its function of concealing your connection to the VPN server, you are unlikely to attract the notice of authorities.

Certain types of content restrictions are intended to assist companies.

The UAE receives a substantial quantity of foreign business traffic and primarily depends on it as a source of revenue. Dubai, in particular, has a sizable population of non-Muslim and seasonal residents who live and work there year-round and on a long-term basis. To maintain a friendly relationship with its overseas business partners, the government spends less time enforcing some rules in Dubai, however recent revisions to the legislation may signal a return to stringent censorship and enforcement.

Businesses benefit from several content filtering rules that are intended to safeguard their interests. The country’s decision to restrict voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and a variety of other messaging applications, including Skype, WhatsApp, and Google Hangouts, is intended to safeguard the country’s telecoms sector from competition from people utilizing free communication platforms. As such, long-distance calling is prohibited in the UAE, at least legally.

VoIP cards that are widely available across the nation are a way to circumvent this prohibition. VoIP calling cards are a workaround for the system that enables users to dial a distant PSTN number that is subsequently connected to a VoIP system. Users may then make VoIP calls using a standard cellular network or even a landline phone.

UAE Liberty

We just conducted a comparative assessment of several nations’ internet censoring strategies. The UAE is one of the top ten worst nations for internet blocking on our list.

As of 2020, the UAE received a score of 28 out of 100 from the democracy and freedom rating organization Freedom House for internet freedom. The higher the score, the more free the internet is in that nation.

The complete Freedom House assessment reveals that the UAE’s internet content filtering is among the worst in the world, if not the worst in the world or even the Middle East. Additionally, the research notes that the country’s internet service providers, such as Etisalat, use content filtering software such as NetSweeper, SmartBlocker, and Blue Coat ProxySG. Additionally, the research claims that Facebook and YouTube are accessible, however some search keywords and content are restricted on those sites.

Online streaming in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates

Netflix is not prohibited in the United Arab Emirates. The service began operations in the UAE earlier this year. The nation presently has over 300 television series and just under 1,000 films available. This is about 30% of what is accessible on Netflix in the United States. Numerous Netflix users in Dubai use VPNs to view content from other Netflix zones. For Netflix access, not all VPNs are successful; for more information, visit our Netflix VPN list.

Similarly, many in the nation are employing VPN services to get access to Amazon Prime Video services. Amazon is not prohibited in the nation, although the website does not provide video streaming services. These, on the other hand, are accessible over a VPN and are not deemed “illegal content” under the country’s newly modified VPN legislation.

Utilizing a VPN to get access to worldwide libraries of online video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, or Amazon Prime Video is regarded as a low-risk endeavor. Authorities are especially concerned with individuals who use VPNs for severe crimes, and more specifically, for violations of the ethical legislation outlined above.

Tip: Purchase a VPN before landing in the UAE.

Although VPN websites are lawful in the UAE, visiting them to download a VPN service may trigger warnings and make you a target for surveillance, even if you are not using the service illegally. It is thus recommended that you download a VPN application before visiting the country.

Pre-downloading will assist in ensuring that you have a VPN service installed on your computer before traveling to the nation. By visiting the VPN’s website after you arrive, you will not raise any red flags. Also, if you’re using a provider that supports obfuscation, you may want to avoid being recognized as a VPN user entirely.

How to circumvent VPN blocking

As previously mentioned, VPN banning occurs in the UAE as VPN services are one of the products monitored by the TRA. The country’s latest modifications to its cybersecurity legislation, which widen the definition of VPN illegality, also increase the likelihood that your VPN service will be stopped.

You may, however, circumvent VPN restrictions by using many well-known techniques.

  1. Avoid using a free VPN service.

Free VPN companies are a risk that is just not worth taking, much more so if you are going to the UAE. Frequently free VPNs:

  • ways of safe encryption that are ineffective
  • include third-party advertisements on your web pages
  • maintains logs
  • possess fewer server selections
  • having servers that are slower and have less bandwidth
  • personal information of users

Given the large gray area that VPN users in the UAE and Dubai face, there is no need to take that risk to save a few dollars.

  1. Change the TCP port on your computer to 443

The OpenVPN TCP protocol may be communicated on the 443 port. This port is identical to the one used by the HTTPS protocol. This is effectively a moderate obfuscation technique since it renders your VPN traffic identical to that of a standard SSL connection to an HTTPS website. Many premium VPN providers enable you to simply switch to this configuration, particularly if they are already using OpenVPN.

  1. Adapt to a new methodology

If the OpenVPN TCP protocol becomes prohibited, you may choose to switch to the L2TP/IPsec protocol. This protocol is very secure and is still widely used. Ensure, however, that your L2TP protocol includes IPsec security since an “unencrypted” L2TP protocol is insecure.

Additionally, you may use the SSTP protocol if available. However, this protocol is not widely supported on the majority of devices, although it may be available as an option on select Windows workstations.

We do not advocate switching to PPTP. It is not secure, mostly because it is considered outdated. Given that you’ll be connecting to a VPN in an environment that is more or less hostile, you’ll want to avoid using an insecure VPN protocol.

Disclaimer: While we conducted extensive research on this subject, nothing in our article should be construed as legal advice. Our objective is to give you the most accurate information and answers possible. Having stated that, we are not legal experts on the complexities of UAE law.

VPN FAQs for the United Arab Emirates and Dubai

Which VPN should I use in the United Arab Emirates for video calls?

To make video calls in the UAE, you’ll need a VPN with powerful obfuscation technologies. Additionally, you’ll want a dependable connection, fast speeds, solid encryption, and a real no-logs policy. ExpressVPN provides all of this and more, making it our top recommendation for VoIP calls in the UAE. NordVPN and ExpressVPN are both good affordable options that provide sophisticated obfuscation.

Is it safe to use a VPN in the UAE to unblock WhatsApp and other VoIP services?

While there have been instances of individuals being prosecuted for using a VPN, many of these have been proven to be inaccurate. The government seems to be more concerned with individuals using VPNs for more illicit objectives, even though their usage for accessing VoIP services remains widespread in the nation. Having said that, it is prudent to study local legislation and current news reports, since the landscape is subject to change.

Is it safe to purchase online while connected to a VPN?

Yes, this is a safe and encouraging practice. No matter where you are in the world, a VPN may help make online shopping safer. A VPN encrypts your data, ensuring that even if your internet traffic is intercepted, its contents cannot be read. This is particularly important while using public wifi networks, which are notoriously insecure and a favorite haunt of hackers looking to steal your data.

Is internet banking secure when accessed over a VPN from the UAE?

Yes! When you access your online bank account from the UAE, VPNs give an additional degree of protection to your financial information. Online banks now use TLS encryption standards (indicated by the HTTPS prefix on the website URL) to provide a secure connection between your online browser and your bank. However, HTTPS-encrypted websites are not entirely safe, and you will be exposed to some sorts of assaults, particularly if you are using public Wi-Fi. You’ll need a VPN if you want to conceal and encrypt all of your internet traffic (including preventing others from viewing the websites you visit).

Who are the Internet Service Providers in the United Arab Emirates?

In the UAE, there are only two licensed internet service providers: Etisalat and du. Both of these entities are restricted from adhering to the laws of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and from limiting access to a broad variety of information. This enables businesses to easily restrict free VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom while selling their expensive equivalents. This not only allows for easier monitoring of citizens’ discussions but also assures that they get a poorer deal than consumers elsewhere on the globe.

Is Netflix Banned in the United Arab Emirates?

Netflix is available for free in the UAE, with monthly subscriptions beginning at 29 AED (about $7.90 USD). However, there are only about 2,900 titles available; in comparison, the US library system has nearly 6,000 titles.

When Netflix first launched globally, it drew criticism for attempting to block VPN users outright, which was unwise given that those in the UAE face harsh penalties for violating a slew of frequently vague online restrictions. However, it has subsequently shifted its strategy. Rather, if Netflix detects that you are using a VPN, it will restrict access to movies and television series to which it holds worldwide broadcast rights (all Netflix Originals, for instance). You will still be able to view it, but the variety of content will be significantly restricted.

Can my online activities in the UAE be tracked if I use a VPN?

Your online activities are untraceable if you use a VPN that adheres to a strict no-logs policy and invests in the type of technology necessary to prevent data leaks. Users in the UAE should avoid free VPNs as these providers typically lack the capital necessary to invest heavily in upgrading and maintaining infrastructure and technology, as well as VPNs that lack a track record of preventing data leaks.

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