5 Best VPNs for UAE (Updated with Local Servers in 2020)Last Updated by Yan Zhuang on July 02, 2020
Don’t take any chances with VPNs that haven’t been proven to work in the United Arab Emirates. If your VPN fails and the UAE government discovers you’re using one to access banned content, you could be fined $500,000 or jailed. The national Telecom Regulatory Authority censors communications platforms (like Skype and Whatsapp), news sites, and more. When you’re in the UAE, you’ll need a top-tier VPN to access many sites.
You may experience similar blocks overseas — if you go abroad, you’ll need a VPN with UAE servers to get a local IP address so you can access exclusive content like shows on Starz Play or UAE online banking.
Given the UAE’s punishments for accessing banned material, it’s frightening to try VPNs by yourself. For your peace of mind, I tested dozens of VPNs to find the 5 best services to bypass censorship and get a UAE IP address abroad. To see for yourself, you can also try ExpressVPN (the top VPN for UAE) risk-free for 30 days using its money-back guarantee.
Quick Guide: 5 Best VPNs for the UAE in July 2020
- ExpressVPN — #1 VPN for unbeatable security to keep you safe from government spies when accessing censored websites in the UAE, and it has a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
- NordVPN — Offers the biggest server network to get around censorship on du, but it doesn’t work with Etisalat.
- Surfshark — Lets you stream your favorite local shows on an unlimited number of devices, but only has 1 UAE server.
- PrivateVPN — Lets you browse undetected by government surveillance with Stealth Mode, but is located in a 14-Eyes Alliance country.
- VyprVPN — Bypasses strict UAE censorship with Chameleon mode, but doesn’t let you pay anonymously with cryptocurrency.
3 Easy Steps to Get a UAE IP Address
- Get a VPN with UAE servers. Try the #1 safest UAE service ExpressVPN to enjoy its top-tier security and reliable connections.
- Download and install the VPN on your phone or computer. Get your VPN directly from the vendor site (not an app store) to avoid refund and customer service delays.
- Launch your VPN and connect to a server in the UAE. Once connected, you can access local content safely. To get international content, connect to a server abroad.
Here’s a tip for you — How to check your IP address
Not sure if you’re connected? Use this IP address tool to make sure your VPN has created a secure connection to a server in the UAE or another country and is keeping you 100% anonymous.
5 Fastest, Safest VPNs for the UAE to Unblock Local and Global Content
- Offers 1 Egyptian server to easily access UAE content and 3,000+ servers in countries around the world to let you get international content
- Uses military intelligence-grade AES 256-bit encryption, an automatic kill switch, and leak protection to hide your activity from governments, hackers, and others
- TrustedServer technology prevents activity logs from ever being stored
- Protects up to 5 devices on one account
- 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it 100% risk-free and get your money back if you aren’t satisfied
Since ExpressVPN is one of the safest VPNs on the market, I was relieved to discover it works in the UAE and can get you a local IP address while abroad. Security is my number one concern when selecting a VPN for the UAE because getting caught using one could result in huge fines and jail time. Jump to this section to learn more about the legality of using VPNs there.
ExpressVPN combines the best security features in the industry, so you can rest easy knowing no one will be able to hack your private browsing history. To begin with, ExpressVPN encrypts data using the same standards as US military intelligence organizations. It uses 256-bit encryption and OpenVPN/IKEv2 protocols to scramble your data — that means that if a hacker were somehow able to penetrate your connection, they would only see a string of random letters, symbols, and numbers. This level of protection gave me peace of mind that ExpressVPN would keep my data private despite the UAE’s intense surveillance.
In addition to best-available encryption, ExpressVPN has proven that it truly doesn’t keep any user logs. Although almost all VPNs claim that they don’t keep records of user data or activity, they don’t all abide by the same standards. In 2017, authorities requested user information from ExpressVPN as part of an investigation related to a Turkish ambassador’s murder. Police seized an ExpressVPN server but were unable to retrieve any user information due to its strict no-logs policy. Even if the UAE government wanted to track your activity, they would be unable to do so because of ExpressVPN’s strict no-logging policy.
Aside from security issues, finding a VPN that works well in the UAE was a big concern to me. The country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and ISPs regularly cracks down on providers, meaning many VPNs don’t work at all there. The worst thing that could happen would be arriving to the UAE only to find that your service has recently been blocked and you can’t download another one while there. Even some premium providers like CyberGhost are completely blocked. Thankfully, that won’t happen with the #1 VPN for the UAE — ExpressVPN is one of the only providers with a proven history of getting around tough UAE censorship and even bypassing China’s Great Firewall.
ExpressVPN will also help you unlock censored websites and apps easily with its 3,000+ servers in 94 countries. Considering that many sites and platforms are blocked by the UAE government, proven ability to bypass geo-blocks was really important to me. In 2017, the UAE’s only two ISPs Estilat and du began blocking Skype and WhatsApp to force people to use their VOIP apps. Despite these blocks, ExpressVPN let me access these platforms as well as sites like Betfair and Wikipedia when I connected to a UK server. Plus, ExpressVPN works with both Estilat and du (most VPNs only work with one).
When you travel abroad, ExpressVPN can also access UAE content. While it doesn’t have any servers in the UAE itself, its Egyptian server let me unblock local platforms like Starz Play and OSN to stream popular channels like Sharjah TV, Al Arabiya, and Dubai TV. The Egyptian IP address will let you get access to local services without any issues.
In my testing, ExpressVPN had fast speeds for bufferless streaming. When I used its Egyptian server to stream an episode of Kingdoms of Fire on Starz Play. I was surprised that it loaded almost instantly and I was able to watch it in HD with no lag. I also found that its speeds were stable during both peak and off-peak hours.
One minor con is that ExpressVPN is a bit pricier than the other services on this list. However, considering that it offers savings for longer-term subscriptions, I think this isn’t a big deal for a VPN that has such solid safety and works so well in the UAE.
I was really satisfied with ExpressVPN’s top-tier security and ability to bypass strict censorship. But, I still think the best way to know if a VPN is right for you is to test it yourself. You can try ExpressVPN risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee. This is the perfect length of time to use it risk-free on your next trip to the UAE. Plus, you can get a full refund at the end of this period if you’re not satisfied. I was impressed by how quick and easy the process was — in less than 2 minutes chatting with a representative, I was able to cancel my subscription. Then, my money was returned to my account in just 4 days.
ExpressVPN also unblocks: WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime, Wikipedia, Betfair, Pornhub, Starz Play, OSN, AD Drama, MBC, Dubai Sports, Emarat TV, US Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and more.
ExpressVPN works on: Android, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android TV, Linux, Chrome extension, Firefox extension, and some routers.
- 5,800+ servers around the world and 20 in the UAE for browsing local and international websites
- Protects you with military-grade encryption, CyberSec technology, and an automatic kill switch
- Follows a strict no-logs policy protects your data
- Protects up to 6 devices on one account
- 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test it completely risk-free and get a refund if you want
NordVPN is the second-best VPN for the UAE because of its unique security features and 20 local servers.
Considering the intense government repression of VPNs, I was reassured to learn that 19 out of NordVPN’s 20 UAE servers are obfuscated. This means that your VPN connection is disguised to look like regular internet traffic. That decreases the risks associated with using a VPN while in the UAE because government agents won’t even be able to detect you.
In addition to special servers, NordVPN’s strict no-logs policy prevents user data and history from being stored. That means iff UAE authorities investigated you, they wouldn’t find anything. NordVPN has proven its no-logging policies are true by inviting cybersecurity experts PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit them multiple times. In the recent 2018 audit, PWC confirmed NordVPN doesn’t keep records of user IP addresses, connections, browsing, or other identifiable data. In combination with its military-grade encryption and leak protection, you can be confident that no one can access your private data through NordVPN.
Aside from solid security, I wanted a VPN that would give me reliable access to censored platforms like Skype and WhatsApp for business while in the UAE. The worst thing that can happen in these situations is having a connection drop halfway through an important call. But you won’t need to worry about that with this service — NordVPN has 20 UAE servers (the most of any VPN on this list), so you won’t experience crowding or slow speeds.
To check out its local server speed for myself, I tested all 20 of NordVPN’s UAE servers and found they were blazing fast for streaming. During my tests, I was able to use servers #10 and #12 to watch Maqamat Al-Ishq on AD Drama. Even though I was thousands of kilometers away when I tested them, it loaded nearly instantly and I was able to watch in high-definition with no buffering.
One potential issue to keep in mind is that NordVPN is blocked by 1 of the UAE’s 2 ISPs, Etisalat. However, my independent testing and NordVPN’s customer service confirmed that it works well on the country’s other major ISP, du. So if you’re planning to exclusively use du while in the UAE, NordVPN is a great option.
But don’t just take my word for it — try NordVPN risk free for 30 days using its money-back guarantee. This will give you plenty of time to test it before you make up your mind. I tried NordVPN’s refund process and found it was easy. Customer support spent some time trying to troubleshoot my issue to get me to stay — they even offered me an extra 30-days free to continue trying the VPN at no risk to me. This may not be a standard offer (I’ve never come across this before in all my years testing NordVPN), but I thought this was a great option. They processed my refund quickly when I said I wasn’t interested.
NordVPN also unblocks: WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime, Wikipedia, Betsfair, Pornhub, Starz Play, OSN, AD Drama, MBC, Dubai Sports, Emarat TV, US Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more.
NordVPN works on: Android, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android TV, Linux, Chrome extension, Firefox extension, and some routers.
- 1,000+ servers globally and 1 UAE server
- 256-bit AES encryption for top-notch data security and CleanWeb technology to block malware
- Strict no-log policy keeps your information private
- Simultaneously connect as many devices as you want
- 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it totally risk-free and get a refund
At first, I was suspicious if it would measure up to its promises — after all, Surfshark’s monthly subscription protects unlimited devices and costs less than a cup of coffee. However, my tests of Surfshark revealed that it really does offer premium performance and top-tier security for UAE users.
I was impressed that you can protect numerous devices without compromising speed with Surfshark. To put it to the test, my family and I connected all of our devices (5 smartphones, 4 laptops, and 1 tablet) at the same time to catch up on the latest episodes of Justice: Qalb Al Adala while abroad. I was surprised that everyone enjoyed bufferless streaming and fast loading times even though we were all using the same account at once.
In addition to fast speeds, Surfshark also offers a large network of 1,000+ servers to help you easily bypass UAE censorship. Using an Australian server, I accessed Al Jazeera’s website and was able to stream its live news coverage with no connection issues. The clip loaded quickly and I watched it in HD with no lag.
When I realized that Surfshark only has 1 UAE server, I thought that it might be slow because of crowding — but I was wrong. During my testing, Surfshark’s UAE server let me stream Seret El Hob on AD Drama in HD. The program loaded almost instantly and I experienced only minor lag.
In addition to industry-standard security features like leak protection and military-grade encryption, Surfshark also uses CleanWeb to protect you from ads, malware, and other safety risks. This technology automatically detects and blocks suspicious links, phishing attempts, and pop-ups. Plus, it prevents you from even entering websites that might host viruses or malware. Since these scams are one of the most common ways that hackers get your information, this feature really gave me peace of mind that I would be safe using Surfshark.
If you want to use Surfshark in the UAE, one small con I discovered is that you have to set up a manual connection first. In order to safely bypass tough censorship in countries like the UAE and China, you have to install the OpenVPN GUI application if you’re using Windows or Android and an IKEv2 certificate for Mac or iOS. To test the process myself, I followed Surfshark’s Windows setup instructions. The whole process only took me around 10 minutes, and afterward I was able to access censored sites including Skype and Instagram. Although using Surfshark in the UAE requires an extra step that some VPNs don’t, I thought it was worth it for such an affordable VPN.
You can try Surfshark risk-free using its 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not completely satisfied, you can take advantage of its refund policy. The customer service representative helped me quickly and I got my money back in just 5 days.
Surfshark also unblocks: WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime, Wikipedia, Betfair, Starz Play, OSN, AD Drama, MBC, Dubai Sports, Emarat TV, US Netflix, Amazon Prime, and more.
Surfshark works on: Android, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android TV, Linux, Chrome extension, Firefox extension, and some routers.
- 1+ server in the UAE and 150+ globally
- Secure 256-bit encryption and an automatic kill switch to keep your online activity private
- Strict no-logs policy protects your personal information
- Connect 6 devices simultaneously
- 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it risk-free
For countries like the UAE that actively crackdown on VPN use, PrivateVPN is a great choice because it uses Stealth VPN to hide your activity from websites and ISPs. This technology prevents prying eyes from even detecting that you’re using a VPN and lets you bypass tough firewall technology in countries like the UAE and China. Since you can be jailed for online activity in the UAE, I definitely felt safer using PrivateVPN knowing that my internet use blended in with everyone around me.
In addition to this unique feature, PrivateVPN uses industry-standard security features like 256-bit encryption, a no-logs policy, and an automatic kill switch to protect your privacy. In combination, these security features keep you safe from government monitoring and hackers, even if your connection gets interrupted.
Although it uses many of the same security standards as the top VPNs, it’s worth noting that PrivateVPN is based in Sweden, a member of the 14 Eyes Alliance. Although I haven’t found any evidence that PrivateVPN has revealed any user data in the past, this worried me. The 14 Eyes Alliance is an international intelligence group that shares surveillance data with other member countries. If you choose a VPN in a 14 Eyes country, there’s a chance it could share your information with other governments. Personally, I feel safer using a VPN that’s based in a country with a pro-privacy reputation, like ExpressVPN (in the British Virgin Islands). But if you’re not too privacy concerned and you simply want to unblock your Netflix account while traveling, this might not be a big issue.
Additionally, PrivateVPN has a small network with just 1 UAE server and 150+ servers worldwide. Because of this, I thought that it might not be able to get around geo-restrictions — but this isn’t the case. While in the UAE, I was surprised that PrivateVPN let me easily bypass censorship to access banned services like WhatsApp and Skype. Using a UK server, I was even able to get around BBC iPlayer’s tough VPN detection technology and load an episode of Peaky Blinders.
Although I was thousands of kilometers away from the UK when I connected, I was surprised that PrivateVPN gave me fast speeds for streaming. It only took a few seconds to load and I was able to watch the whole episode of Peaky Blinders in HD with minimal buffering.
If you’re not ready to commit to a long subscription, you can try PrivateVPN’s features yourself with its 30-day money-back guarantee. After chatting with customer service, I received my refund in 4 business days as their policy stats.
PrivateVPN also unblocks: WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime, Wikipedia, Betfair, Starz Play, OSN, AD Drama, MBC, Dubai Sports, Emarat TV, US Netflix, and more.
PrivateVPN works on: Android, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android TV, Linux, and some routers.
- 1+ servers in the UAE and 700+ globally
- Secure 256-bit OpenVPN encryption keeps your browsing activity safe
- Strict no-logs policy secures your data
- Up to 5 simultaneous connections
- 30-day money-back guarantee
VyprVPN’s unique Chameleon technology bypasses the UAE’s strong censorship. This technology scrambles your metadata in order to camouflage your VPN connection as normal internet traffic. This means you can’t be blocked by firewalls and ISPs can’t throttle your speeds, so you’ll be able to load websites quickly and easily.
I was really impressed to learn that VyprVPN owns its entire network of servers. Even some of the top recommended VPNs on this list don’t offer this type of protection. This prevents prying third-party server owners from spying on your online activity and private data, so you can rest easy knowing that the UAE government won’t be able to find out anything about your online activities.
In addition to this unique server protection, VyprVPN uses industry-standard OpenVPN 256-bit encryption and an automatic kill switch to protect your privacy even if your connection fails. These features will prevent hackers from intercepting or decoding your private data, no matter where you are in the world.
Aside from solid security, VyprVPN can also help you access geo-blocked content. When I was in the UAE, I was impressed that VyprVPN easily unblocked Stranger Things on US Netflix. While abroad, its Dubai server also let me stream a football match on Dubai Sports in HD.
When I was streaming a live volleyball match from Dubai Sports, I noticed that it took a couple of minutes for the stream to load initially and I experienced occasional buffering. This wasn’t a big issue, but it didn’t give me as smooth a streaming experience as other VPNS on this list.
One other issue I had was that VyprVPN doesn’t accept cryptocurrency payments. For me, this normally wouldn’t be a problem. But in a country like the UAE where using a VPN is so risky, it could be a problem if the government investigates you. If you want absolute anonymity, you can try ExpressVPN and pay for your subscription with 100% anonymous methods like Mint or Bitcoin.
Before committing to a long subscription, you can test VyprVPN risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
VyprVPN also unblocks: WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime, Wikipedia, Starz Play, OSN, AD Drama, MBC, Dubai Sports, Emarat TV, US Netflix, and more.
VyprVPN works on: Android, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android TV, Linux, Chrome extension, Firefox extension, and some routers.
Are VPNs legal in the UAE?
Having a VPN installed on your devices while in the UAE isn’t illegal — but if you use one to access censored websites while there, it’s possible you could be fined or jailed.
The UAE’s 2016 federal cybercrimes law states that individuals found using a fake IP address “for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery” can be jailed or fined between AED 500,000 and 2,000,000 ($USD 100,000 to 500,000).
In addition to cybercrimes like hacking or torrenting copyrighted content, “committing a crime” in the UAE also refers to accessing the following banned apps and websites:
- Voice over IP apps like Facetime, WhatsApp, and Skype
- Pornography websites
- Some news sites like Al Jazeera
- Websites with LGBTQ content
- Gambling platforms
- Sites with anti-government or anti-Islamic material
There’s very little public information about exactly how many people have been arrested for using a VPN. In the past, it seems that authorities have been more concentrated on prosecuting people who use VPNs to commit serious acts of harm like inciting terrorism rather than, say, watching pornography. It’s also uncertain how likely it is for tourists versus UAE citizens to be pursued for VPN violations. But, the situation in the UAE is unclear and always changing. That’s why you shouldn’t take any chances using a questionable VPN in the UAE.
I certainly don’t recommend using a VPN to break any local cybersecurity laws. If you decide to use a VPN anywhere, try a service like ExpressVPN that has unbeatable security so you can’t be tracked by government agents, hackers, or other prying eyes.
How to Choose the Best VPN for the UAE
I ranked the VPNs on this list according to the following criteria:
- Best-in-class encryption — Select a VPN with 256-bit AES encryption and OpenVPN or IKEv2 encryption protocols. These are the best-available encryption standards and will protect you from hackers, government organizations, and anyone else who might want to spy on your online activity.
- UAE and international servers — You need a VPN with servers around the world in addition to at least one in the UAE (or surrounding Middle Eastern countries). Servers in countries with strong internet freedom can unblock sites that are censored in the UAE. Meanwhile, UAE servers can give you access to local content.
- Unblocking ability — Not every service can get around tough restrictions, so make sure your VPN can bypass blocks to access sites like Netflix.
- Strict no-logs policy — If a VPN tracks your data, you could be at risk of being tracked by government authorities or cybercriminals. Choose a VPN with an independently-audited no-logs policy.
- Automatic VPN kill switch — If your connection is accidentally interrupted, there’s a chance some of your data might be exposed. Select a service with an automatic kill switch, which will automatically hide your data even in the case of technical errors.
Why You Need a UAE IP Address
- Bypass location restrictions so that you can watch channels like AD Drama and MBC from abroad.
- Check your UAE online bank account from anywhere — many banks like the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank restrict access from overseas to prevent fraud, but a VPN can bypass those blocks.
- Use UAE exclusive VOIP apps like BOTIM and HIU Messenger while overseas so you can easily stay in contact with family and friends in the UAE.
How a VPN Gets You a UAE IP Address
A VPN creates a private and anonymous connection between your device and the internet. It does this by replacing your real IP address with one associated with a VPN server in another location.
Your IP address is your digital fingerprint. It reveals private information about you. Every time you go on a website, it registers your IP address. Hackers, governments, and others can use your IP address to find out your real location and identity. It can also be used to track what you’ve been doing online.
A VPN acts like a glove for your digital fingerprint. Using a VPN lets you reroute your connection to a server in the UAE (or in another country of your choosing). This gives you a temporary IP address from that country, tricking websites into thinking you’re located there. Since it masks your real IP address, that’s one of the ways a VPN hides sensitive information about you like your true location, identity, and browsing history.
This process lets you fool websites that block users who have a foreign IP address. With a UAE IP address, you can access content only meant for those inside the country, like banking services, local news, and TV shows. While you’re in the UAE, using a VPN to get an IP address from another country can also help you access foreign content that would normally be blocked to you.
Can I use a free VPN to get a UAE IP address?
It’s very unlikely that a free VPN will protect you from government surveillance and punishment in the UAE.
Since the UAE government passed Federal Law Number 5 in 2012 to combat cybercrime, using a VPN for anything illegal (like accessing Skype) has been punishable by jail time and hefty fines. This law was slightly revised in 2016 (the term “imprisonment” was changed to “temporary imprisonment” and the fine amount was increased). Since the law was introduced, the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and its two ISPs have continuously cracked down on VPN usage.
It’s extremely risky to use a free service in the UAE because free VPNs don’t have the same high-quality security features that premium ones do. Many free VPNs also keep extensive user logs (even if they claim not to). Some services even sell user information to third parties to make money. All of this means that using a free VPN is a serious risk to your safety. In a place like the UAE where you can be imprisoned for your online activity, that’s not a good trade to make.
Aside from these serious security risks, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a free VPN that works in the UAE. This is because free VPNs often restrict the server locations you can use. Since the country has made it so hard for providers to operate within its borders, it will be very hard for you to find a VPN with working local servers.
While the idea of using a free VPN might be tempting, I definitely wouldn’t recommend you take that risk in the UAE. To guarantee that your provider will keep you safe and work well, try a provider like ExpressVPN that protects your data with the best security features on the market.
How to Save on VPNs for the UAE
A premium VPN doesn’t have to be expensive. Plus, all the VPNs I’ve listed above have money-back guarantees so you can try them before you commit to a long subscription. To see if you might be able to save even more on some services using hidden deals, check out the latest offers I’ve included here to save you time:
Hack your way to more savings on your VPN: