The United Arab Emirates has grown rapidly over the last 40 years and is well known for the glittering lights of Dubai. Millions of tourists visit each year and, because there is no income tax, it’s a favorite among digital nomads. Almost 80 percent of its population uses the internet and it’s likely you will, too, during your visit, so you should use one of our best VPN for UAE.
Unlike in other countries, internet censorship is not too harsh in the UAE (for an example of how bad it can be, read our piece on the Great Firewall of China). A virtual private network will help you bypass it easily, however.
Its filtering policies concentrate on culturally or religiously offensive content. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority instructs ISPs to block any content connected to terrorism, pornography, dating, LGBT and gambling.
Websites that contain political discussion that threatens the ruling order and those that promote illegal drugs can be blocked. Content that constitutes a risk to internet users, such as hacking tools, spyware and phishing websites, is also frowned upon.
Press freedom is poor and state-run news websites often refuse to cover controversial issues. All aspects of the media are regulated by the 1980 Publications and Publishing Law, which prohibits criticism of the government.
Reporters exercise self-censorship to keep in step with government regulations and red tape. Foreign journalists are sometimes denied entry or deported for expressing their views on political matters.
Online Legislation in the UAE
Online freedom has declined due to several recent UAE laws including cybercrime and anti-discrimination statutes. The cybercrime law aims punishment at those who are involved in certain online activities, such as running a terrorist website or one that aims to incite hate. It was amended in August 2018 to include harsher penalties for those who violate the rules.
The anti-discrimination legislation is in place to combat terrorism by controlling hate. It has been amended over time and is commonly used to deter free expression by going beyond hate speech and promotion of violence.
Individuals are often arrested and can be given hefty fines and prison sentences, for what seem like harmless activities and non-violent opinions. Discussions deemed insulting to religious symbols or offending the state and its rulers are punishable, as well. Similar instances can be found in our best VPN for Singapore article.
The anti-discrimination law warns that it can sentence violators to prison terms of up to 10 years. Large fines between 500,000 and 2 million dirham ($140,000 to $540,000), jail time or both can be imposed for breaking the cybercrime law.
Authorities have repeatedly warned foreign nationals that they must follow the country’s laws. Online activists have been jailed and both locals and foreigners have been detained for social media posts.
In 2018, a man was found guilty of using social media to publish false information about the UAE and promote hatred, damaging the UAE’s reputation. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail and fined 1 million dirham ($270,000) for defaming the UAE. Just be mindful of what you post.
Online Safety and Privacy in the UAE
Another reason for using a VPN service is the risk of cyberattacks. Symantec’s 2018 report shows that cybercrime activity has increased, with the UAE ranking eighth in the world compared to ninth in 2017. Our best VPN for Thailand shows another country with high cybercrime rates.
Plus, a Norton Security Insights Report said almost 4 billion dirham ($1 billion) was stolen from victims in the UAE by cybercriminals during 2017. For that reason, it is a good idea to install one of our best anti-virus software.
The government is engaging in surveillance, too.
“We have started monitoring all the social media channels – all websites and profiles are monitored,” said one TRA official in an interview with the 7days newspaper in Dubai.
It has also been reported that a Danish subsidiary of British defense contractor BAE Systems sold UAE officials surveillance equipment.
Along with that, Abu Dhabi launched Falcon Eye in 2016, which is an Israeli-installed civil surveillance system. According to the Middle East Eye, it enables authorities to monitor every person, allowing work, social and behavioral patterns to be recorded and analyzed.
Earlier this year, the UAE was found to be conducting surveillance on other governments, militants, journalists and human rights campaigners. Project Raven is a team of former U.S. intelligence agents and is able to make use of cyber weaponKarma, which can infiltrate iPhones. News of the project only came to light after Raven started spying on Americans.
The UAE is not the only government engaging in intrusive surveillance. Just look at our best VPN for the U.S. and best VPN for the UK pieces for more insight.
Best VPNs for UAE 2022
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 10
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 30
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 8
What Makes a VPN the Best for Dubai
Many factors should be considered when deciding on the best VPN for Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Given what the authorities deem insulting or offending, it’s best to make sure you’re not posting anything that could be viewed that way. Still, for peace of mind, you should make sure to pick a secure VPN provider that offers good encryption.
Good security will ensure that you’re hidden, so if authorities try to trace your IP address back to you, they’ll only see the network you used to gain access. It will hide you from any surveillance and online policing. Having a built-in kill switch is another good feature. It will sever your connection to the internet if the VPN fails, keeping you safe at all times.
Your privacy is separate from security and just as important. You need to make sure that the provider doesn’t keep logs. That means there will be no record of your online activities, so the company can’t provide it even if authorities ask.
To get around censorship, choose a provider that has many servers located around the world. Using a server located outside of the country will let you access anything that has been blocked.
That goes for geoblocks, as well. Connect to a server in the United States, for example, and you will be able to access U.S. Netflix even though it is only available there. Read more in our how to watch U.S. Netflix piece. On the other hand, if you want to access content only UAE residents can see, you’ll need to connect to a UAE IP address, so make sure your provider offers one.
Speed is another key feature, especially if you are planning on streaming. No one likes to stare at a loading screen. If you’re streaming or downloading, you should also make sure there are no bandwidth caps. Without that, you’ll reach a given limit and the VPN service will quit working, leaving you vulnerable.
Other things to consider are what devices you are using, if the provider has a client for them and if it is user-friendly. Customer service should be easy to contact, as well, in case you have issues and cost could influence your decision.
With all those factors considered, let’s look at our picks for the best virtual private networks to use in the UAE.
1. The Best VPN for the UAE: NordVPN
NordVPN is a favorite at Cloudwards.net, placing in our best VPN piece, because of its high-security service and the many features it has to offer. On top of having some of the best security around, it has optional double-hop encryption, which provides more protection for your connection. There’s also a built-in kill switch for peace of mind.
Privacy is a high priority for NordVPN. It has a strict no-logs policy, so you don’t have to fret about records of your online activity. Read our full NordVPN review to see why it’s the best VPN for Dubai.
It has more than 5,000 servers scattered over 60 countries, meaning you shouldn’t have trouble connecting to one that can access what you want, including Netflix. Plus, there are seven servers in the UAE for content restricted to it.
Speeds are good, but if you’re connecting to a server that’s far away, it can become slow. It switches servers quickly, though. There are no bandwidth caps, so you can stream or download as much as you want.
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
NordVPN is easy to set up and the client’s layout is user-friendly. You’ll have no problem finding what you need and selecting the server you want is a walk in the park. It supports Windows and macOS, with mobile apps available for Android and iOS. It also made the cut in our best VPN for multiple devices, as it offers six simultaneous connections.
Customer service is helpful and you can contact them via live chat or email. We recommend live chat to get the fastest reply. There is also a handy knowledgebase, in case you’d like to try to resolve the issue yourself first.
NordVPN has an affordable monthly plan, too, but, if you sign up to a longer-term plan, you’ll get much more savings. If you don’t feel comfortable making that commitment, you can make use of its 30-day refund to make sure you’re happy with the service first.
- Highly secure
- Double-hop servers
- Gets into streaming sites
- Inconsistent speed across network
2. Private Internet Access
While Private Internet Access doesn’t have all the features of other providers, it’s still a good choice for the UAE. It has good security, but it is set to AES 128-bit encryption by default. You can manually set it to 256-bit AES, though doing so will slow down your connection.
As with NordVPN, there’s a built-in kill switch to keep you safe if the VPN stops working and logs aren’t kept.
PIA’s coverage isn’t as good as our top choice, with servers dotting just 32 countries. That said, if one of your main objectives is getting into U.S. Netflix, you should have no problem because the majority of its servers are located there. It has 10 servers in the UAE, too, if that’s what you need.
One of PIA’s best features is its speed, but that’s because it has lighter encryption. If you increase the encryption, the service slows down, but it’s still okay. There are no bandwidth caps, either, so stream away.
Other Reasons We Like PIA
It’s easy to set up, with clients available for Windows and macOS and mobile apps for Android and iOS. They’re straightforward to use and connect fast. Plus, switching servers is a snap.
PIA is let down by its customer support. It doesn’t offer any live chat. We tested email support for our PIA review and, while it was slower, the response we received was thorough. There’s also a useful knowledgebase available.
PIA was once one of the cheapest options with great value for your money. However, its prices have increased and the annual plan has doubled. It is still a good service, though, and there’s a seven-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it before committing.
- Simple, snappy server switching
- Gets into Netflix
- Mediocre server network
- No live chat support
ExpressVPN offers a great service with good encryption at AES 256-bit, which can be increased if you want. There’s a kill switch provided, too, so you don’t need to worry about being exposed if the VPN fails and the service doesn’t keep logs.
It has a huge network of servers across 94 countries, so there are plenty to circumvent blocks you encounter. It doesn’t have any in the UAE, though, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for that.
ExpressVPN still makes our top five because of its excellent all-around service. Plus, if streaming is on your agenda, you may prefer the provider. It topped our best VPN for streaming and best VPN for Netflix pieces.
Speeds aren’t an issue, either, as it’s one of the fastest VPNs around and there are no bandwidth limits. Its server switch time is slow, though. Read more about this great service in our ExpressVPN review.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is a good choice for people who want something that just works. It does almost everything for you. All you need to do is choose the server you want to connect to, which is easy. It can be installed on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. It’s the best VPN for the iPhone so you could class it as the best VPN for iPhone in the UAE.
Customer support doesn’t have the fastest response times, but it does offer live chat 24/7. You can contact them by email if you prefer and the staff are helpful and friendly. There’s also a handy knowledgebase.
ExpressVPN is quite expensive compared to other providers, but it’s worth it for the quality of service you get. As with the others, you will save money by subscribing over a longer period. Take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee to see if you like it.
- 160 locations
- Slow switch time
VyprVPN’s security is good and its Chameleon protocol bolsters it. The service also has a customizable kill switch to make sure you are protected if the connection fails. No logs are kept, so you don’t need to worry about your privacy. Read more in our VyprVPN review.
While it doesn’t have as many servers as our other choices, it has enough spread over more than 60 countries to be included. Plus it has servers in Dubai, meaning you can access UAE content if you want. Speeds are not among VyprVPN’s best features as it can be slow.
Still, it isn’t bad and you don’t need to worry about bandwidth caps.
Other Reasons We Like VyprVPN
Desktop clients are available for Windows and macOS, along with mobile apps for Android and iOS. Setup is easy and you can get connected within minutes.
There’s a handy FAQ section online, so if you encounter problems, you can have a go at them yourself. You can also speak to customer support through the live chat or email them. We recommend the latter if your issue is of a more technical nature because you’ll get a more thorough answer.
VyprVPN is expensive at the monthly rate, but you’ll get better value with the annual plan. It has a 30-day refund period, which should be enough time to decide if you like it.
- Highly configurable
- Chameleon Protocol
- Gets into Netflix
- Small server network
- Subpar speeds
While a good option, there are a couple of reasons TorGuard comes last. It offers good security and you may prefer it if you like to tinker. It’s customizable with different protocols for you to choose from. Plus, it has a kill switch and won’t keep logs of your online activity.
TorGuard offers a good amount of servers in 55 countries, including some in Dubai, so you can access content from there. It lets itself down, though, by not being good at getting around some geoblocks. If streaming will be your main activity, you need to keep that in mind.
It gives you the option to get a dedicated IP address for the location you want, but at an additional cost. It is practically guaranteed to work, though. Speeds can vary, but they are okay and there are no bandwidth restrictions to worry about.
You can read more in our TorGuard review.
Other Reasons We Like TorGuard
Desktop clients for Windows and macOS are available and easy to use. There are also apps for Android and iOS, but they can be a pain to set up. Selecting the server you want to connect to is simple.
Support is on-hand with online guides and a forum to help you fix problems on your own. Live chat is available, but it is offered through a company called LiveChat. The knowledge is limited, so if your problem is complicated, you’d be better off using the email system.
TorGuard offers multiple services with a choice of durations. The annual plan gives you the best value and makes the monthly cost look high. Your overall price will depend on if you add on any extras. If you want to check the service out first, it offers a seven-day money-back guarantee.
- Multiple protocol options
- Dedicated IP address option
- Gets into the BBC iPlayer
- Blocked by Netflix
- Difficult to switch servers
Hopefully we’ve helped you decide on which provider is the best for the UAE. Whether you’re a tourist or resident, we recommend using one.
Go with a VPN service that has plenty of servers to bypass blocks and locations in the U.S. to access U.S. Netflix and the UAE for content restricted to it. Choosing a fast service without bandwidth caps is beneficial, too, as is your safety. You want good security that has a kill switch and a no-logs policy, as well.
NordVPN is the best VPN for the UAE with its top-notch security and large server network, including ones in the UAE. Plus, it gets you into U.S. Netflix. If you’ve used a VPN in the UAE before, let us know about your experience in the comments below. Why not take a look at our VPN archive while you’re here, too? Thank you for reading.