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5 Best VPNs for UAE & Dubai in 2022 that work to avoid detection

5 Best VPNs for UAE & Dubai in 2022 that work to avoid detection

Struggling to find a VPN that works in the UAE? It’s no surprise, seeing as the government is working with ISPs to block as many as they can. In this guide, we’ve recommended reliable UAE services that are quick, secure, and easy to use – though there are some caveats.

What are the best VPNs to use in UAE?

In a rush? No problem! Take a look at the table below for a snapshot of the services we’d recommend for the UAE in 2022. Then, keep scrolling for our in-depth discussions of each.

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[[post-object type=”gotolink” class=”btn btn-md btn-primary” provider=”expressvpn”]]Try ExpressVPN our #1 VPN pick for the UAE[[/post-object]]

See in-depth analysis

Etisalat customers – Please be aware

For the past year, we have received multiple reports regarding the problems that Etisalat customers are experiencing with VPNs. We are working closely with VPN providers to get up-to-date information and to ensure that we only recommend services that will work in the UAE. Click here for updates.

The UAE government is actively blocking VPNs in order to prevent people from using free VoIP services to make calls. The government controls the local telecoms infrastructure in the country and, as you can imagine, would prefer that citizens pay for traditional phone calls.

Etisalat, the UAE’s primary Internet Service Provider (ISP) is currently using advanced methods to block VPNs. As a result, citizens can’t make VoIP calls, and very few VPNs actually work for Etisalat customers. Another UAE ISP, DU, is also attempting to block VPN usage but has so far been less successful.

Due to the ongoing circumstances in the UAE, it is essential that internet users choose their VPN carefully. The services in this guide are doing everything they can to provide VPN services to their UAE customers, which is why these are by far the best options available. 

To help you out, we’ve taken a close look at each VPN provider. Our detailed summaries dig into which VPN works with which ISP – so be sure to comb through each service carefully to ensure you pick a VPN that suits your circumstances.

Before we recommend any VPN for use in the UAE, we invite UAE residents to test each one to ensure they still work reliably. We also run tests to check for the following vital features:

Only VPNs with the security tools, logging policy, and value-for-money mentioned above earn a top spot in our guide. So, let’s take a closer look at the VPNs that made the cut!

Please note: If you are an Etisalat customer, click here.

The Best VPNs for the UAE in 2022

The services listed below are our top picks for UAE VPNs in 2022. They’re quick, with servers dotted across the Middle East and beyond, and come packed with the security tools you need to ensure your browsing sessions stay private. Plus, all of our VPN recommendations are incredibly easy to use and have apps for just about any device you can imagine!

For even more information about any of the providers featured below, head on over to our detailed review pages.

[[post-object type=”summary-section” pros-cons=”true” price=”true” /]]

Using a VPN if you’re an Etisalat Customer

We are closely monitoring the situation on the ground in the UAE. The ProPrivacy team works alongside individuals on location, performing tests, to discover which VPNs are still working – and which have been blocked. This way, we can accurately report on which providers are still a valid option for Etisalat customers. 

Following our tests in 2022, we’re confident that [[post-object type=”gotolink” provider=”nordvpn”]]NordVPN[[/post-object]] is the best option for Etisalat subscribers across the UAE.

NordVPN is always able to help Etisalat customers connect to a server, even if they initially have trouble. Best of all, NordVPN now offers its very own implementation of the WireGuard protocol – NordLynx.

NordLynx is a super-fast protocol that’s impressed us time and again. It even provides built-in obfuscation, so your VPN usage will go completely unnoticed and unblocked by ISPs in the UAE.

[[post-object type=”gotolink” provider=”nordvpn” class=”btn btn-md btn-primary”]]Try Nord >>[[/post-object]]

[[post-object type=”gotolink” provider=”nordvpn”]]NordVPN[[/post-object]] is a VPN provider recognized across the industry for providing a secure service and excellent unblocking capabilities. The service is based in Panama, it has secure apps for all platforms, and it provides a choice of encryption protocols. 

This includes NordLynx and IKEv2 – both of which are used by Etisalat customers to get around the ISP-enforced VPN blocks.

NordVPN also comes with a kill-switch and obfuscation to conceal VPN usage and enable users to perform torrenting and other sensitive online tasks without fear of being tracked. And, if you subscribe, you’ll get access to a worldwide network of servers.

Check out our full NordVPN review for more information.

Why do UAE ISPs block VPNs?

ISPs in the UAE are under huge amounts of pressure to block VPNs. This is because the government does not want people to bypass the restrictions it has put in place.

Because of these blocks, VPN providers must actively stay one step ahead of the government by giving their users a way to access their service. The situation is complex and constantly evolving, and VPN providers are working hard to find new ways to bypass these frustrating restrictions.

The good news is that all of our VPN recommendations come with a money-back guarantee. This means that you can test the services in your own time, without risking your money, to see how well they perform for you.

If you notice that a VPN has stopped working in the UAE, we recommend getting in touch with your provider to see if they can help. If a VPN isn’t working, and its customer support team can’t solve your problem, simply ask for a full refund – and let us know. We always listen to our readers when they’re experiencing difficulties, and it helps us to keep this page up-to-date!

Mobile users

We recommend switching to Du if you’re a mobile user and want to use a VPN. Du doesn’t try to block VPNs nearly as much (or as fiercely) as Etisalat. The same is true if you’re a residential broadband subscriber and Du is available to you. Switching to Du is a great way to increase the number of VPNs available to you.

However, if you’re limited to Etisalat, you can [[post-object type=”gotolink” provider=”nordvpn”]]try NordVPN[[/post-object]] with their money-back guarantee, or opt for a smaller, lesser-known VPN provider that is more likely to fly under the radar.

What is the fastest VPN for the UAE?

Most people in the UAE want a VPN to use VoIP apps to make free calls to their friends and family or business colleagues. However, a fast VPN is essential if you’re going to be hopping into video calls.

Unfortunately, most of the VPNs on the market today have slow servers that aren’t suitable for streaming HD videos, downloading torrents, or making VoIP calls.

That’s why we’ve pinpointed VPN providers that work seamlessly with services like Zoom and Skype in this guide. Our top picks have large networks of servers across the globe, too, so you can gain access to all sorts of international content whilst maintaining superb internet speeds.

All of the VPNs in this guide have a reputation for speed and efficiency. We know this because we test them ourselves! Our regular speed tests give us up-to-date insight into which services are performing the best – and you can check out the latest results in the table below:

[[post-object type=”property_comparison_table” group=”7″ provider=”expressvpn” alternatives=”nordvpn,privatevpn” /]]

For information about how we test VPN speeds, check out our speed methodology.

The advantages of using a VPN in the UAE?

The UAE government enforces strict online censorship for religious and cultural purposes. Access to VoIP apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and Zoom is also restricted because the government controls the telecoms industry and wants to prevent people from making free calls.

With a VPN, however, you can unblock any websites blocked in the UAE, including VoIP apps. A VPN encrypts your data so that what you do online cannot be tracked by the government, a local network admin, or ISP. You’ll have unprecedented online privacy, and the authorities won’t be able to track what you get up to online.

This makes a VPN the only safe way to bypass censorship and blocks imposed by the government. Accessing restricted content without a VPN is too risky because UAE ISPs work closely with the government.

In addition to letting you bypass censorship, a VPN can let you get around international geo-restrictions. For example, if you use a VPN for iPlayer you can stream BBC content in the UAE or you could stream more content on Netflix US, unblock regionally restricted YouTube videos, and much more.

Reasons why you might want to use a VPN in the UAE:

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. 

What VPN features do you need if you are using a VPN in The 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.

[[post-object type=”useful-articles” ids=”9211,9433,7795″ title=”Useful Guides”/]]

Are VPNs illegal in UAE?

That largely depends on who you are and why you’re using a VPN.

Having a VPN installed on your device is not illegal. It’s also legal for companies, institutions, and banks to use VPNs as part of their internal networks. An individual downloading a VPN in order to manipulate internet protocols and commit crimes, however, is very much punishable by law.

Just 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.

This is important, as being caught “misusing” a VPN has some dire repercussions. You could be embroiled in an investigation, receive a fine, or even prison time!

Obviously, nobody wants to wind up behind bars for using a VPN, but it should be noted that the aforementioned fines are nothing to dismiss out of hand, either.

As per Article 9 of the UAE Cyber Law, anyone who “uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address by using a false address or a third-party address” could wind up with an eye-watering fine of not less than AED 500,000 or jail time – or both!

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.

How to get a VPN in UAE

Plenty of businesses use VPNs to secure their data – and this is why VPN usage itself is not illegal in the UAE. Any time you use a VPN to encrypt your data and boost your privacy, you’re acting legally. The moment you choose to access restricted websites or services is the moment you’re committing a crime, however (even if nobody knows about it). This is why VPN use can potentially raise suspicions – and is why we recommend taking precautions to prevent anybody from realizing you’re using a VPN. 

Downloading your VPN

We recommend that you download and install your VPN software before you land in the UAE if you’re visiting from another country. VPN sites are often blocked in the UAE, so accessing one when you’re actually 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):

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.

How does ProPrivacy review VPNs?

The sheer number of VPNs available on the market in 2022 can make picking out a provider a daunting task – users in the UAE, however, face the additional challenge of finding a VPN that isn’t affected by the national ISP bans. But don’t despair! The ProPrivacy team has been reviewing VPNs, using them in our day-to-day lives, and actively contributing to the cybersecurity industry since 2013. We’re here to help, with VPN recommendations that are grounded in first-hand experience.

In order to determine which VPNs are the best for the UAE, I ensured they offered the following key features:

Want to learn more?

For a full account of how we test VPNs, head on over to the ProPrivacy review process page.

 

Can I use 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 the 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!

ExpressVPN logo 2022

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!

[[post-object type=”gotolink” provider=”expressvpn” tag=”uae” class=”btn btn-md btn-primary”]]Visit ExpressVPN >>[[/post-object]]

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 
  • Anti-government
  • All Voice over IP apps

UAE VPNs for Skype, WhatsApp, and Facetime

The UAE government controls the local telecoms company and strictly prohibits anyone from making free calls on apps like Skype. The government has also forced ISPs within the country to block access to popular VoIP apps.

Fortunately, if you subscribe to one of the VPNs in this guide, you’ll easily be able to access those apps and use them from within Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or elsewhere in the UAE.

Remember, you will need a VPN to use Skype, Discord, FaceTime, and most other VoIP apps. 

VOIP features in mobile apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp are also blocked in the UAE, meaning that you’ll 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 you’ll need to use a VPN if you want to access it from the UAE. 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! 

Bear in mind that Nvidia only wants people playing on servers in their own region. This is primarily to optimize the service, though it can be frustrating if you’d rather play games with international GeForce users.

To make matters worse, there’s currently no server in the Middle East. This means that anyone living in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Bahrain will be served a “GeForce Now is currently not supported in your region” message.

However, there is some good news! You can use any of the VPNs in this guide to spoof your location and pretend to be in Europe, the USA, or anywhere else overseas where the game streaming platform is available. Simply subscribe to one of the VPNs in this guide, navigate to GeForce Now and use the service thanks to your VPN!

Can I get an IP address in the UAE with a VPN?

The answer to this question completely revolves around whether the VPN provider you pick has servers in the UAE. Unfirtunately, many VPNs do not maintain servers in the UAE as it is quite an expensive location to maintain a server.

Some VPNs get around this by providing ISPs in the UAE using a virtual server (that uses Smart DNS routing to get you an IP address in the UAE via a server that is physically located in a different country.

Ultimtely, the only way to know whether your VPN will be able to provide you with an IP address in the UAE is to check that provider’s server list. Most VPN will maintain this list on their website.

The good news is that our second most recommended VPN for the UAE (NordVPN) has servers in Abhi Dhabi. This means that you can access local UAE services while travelogn abroad. Unfortuntaely, despite being very good for users in the UAE, our top recommendation does not actually have any servers in the UAE.

Can I watch UAE TV with a VPN?

Yes. If you are traveling overseas and want to access home TV services you can do this with a VPN. Just bear in mind that you will need to stick to a VPN provider that actually has servers in the UAE (not all our recommendations have UAE servers, so please check).

Once you have subscribed to a VPN that has servers int he UAE, simply connect to that server and then head over to your favorite streaming services. Below, we have included a list of UAE platforms that you can watch with a VPN from abroad.

  1. OSN Streaming
  2. Shahid
  3. StarzPlay
  4. beIN Connect
  5. Etisalat eLife ON
  6. du View
  7. Wavo by OSN
  8. Amazon Prime Video
  9. Netflix UAE
  10. Apple TV+

FAQs

[[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 <a href=’/vpn/comparison/uae-ip-address’>UAE IP</a> 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/guides/watch-bbc-iplayer-usa’>watch BBC iPlayer abroad</a> or use a <a href=’/vpn/comparison/unblock-netflix-vpn’>VPN for Netflix</a> (websites that are not specifically illegal in UAE) you should never need to worry about using a VPN.” /]]

[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Can I use a VPN for online shopping in Dubai?” answer=”Yes, using a VPN for online shopping in Dubai isn’t illegal, in fact, it’s advisable. With so many online criminal activities going on around the world, including the UAE, one can never be too cautious when protecting their browsing and shopping data. Choose a VPN with strong encryption and advanced security features (listed above), and you’re already significantly reducing the chances of your sensitive data or money getting stolen during your online shopping in Dubai.” /]]

[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Can I use a proxy or Tor in the UAE instead of a VPN?” answer=”Yes, you can, but keep in mind these services differ from a VPN. A proxy can successfully geo-spoof your virtual location to help you access restricted content, but it doesn’t provide encryption, and is, therefore, a less secure option than a VPN. Besides, you can never be sure who is in charge of the proxy server you’re using and whether they are going to collect and abuse your data. 

<a href=’/privacy-service/guides/ultimate-tor-browser-guide’>Tor browser,</a> on the other hand, provides encryption and protects you from online tracking, ensuring great levels of security and privacy online. But the key problem with Tor is that it can be too slow for basically any other online activity other than browsing. All in all, a VPN is a better privacy solution than either of these two, whether you’re staying in Dubai or anywhere else in the world.” /]]

Conclusion

Picking out a VPN provider in the UAE isn’t a straightforward task – not when ISPs are actively working to block them. However, as long as you stick to a VPN with reliable service and make good use of its advanced security features, there’s nothing to worry about. Feel free to drop us a message if you have any questions – and remember that you can try any of our recommended VPNs risk-free, thanks to their money-back guarantees.

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