If you’re travelling to the UAE, you ought to know that using a VPN is a common practice. However, is using a VPN breaking the law in the UAE? And, which VPNs are the best?
We’ll give you the answers to these questions in this article by covering the following:
Why Do You Need A VPN In UAE?
Compared to its Islamic neighbours, internet censorship in the UAE is not as stringent. But the country’s internet freedom is still restrictive and based on its political and religious values. Compared to its Islamic neighbours, internet censorship in the UAE is not as stringent.
When you’re in Dubai or any other cities in the UAE, you’ll find out that some websites or apps are inaccessible. Generally, websites that are of the following nature are prohibited:
- Politically-sensitive sites
- Israel-linked sites
The United Arab Emirates has been zealously guarding the type of content that is broadcast to those who live in the country. The official stance on internet censorship is to safeguard the values and ethics of its citizens.
However, there also seems to be internet restrictions to preserve the interest of the ISPs. We’re talking about the blocking of the majority of VoIP services in the country so that users are forced to make use of the paid VoIP services by the ISPs. These include popular apps like Whatsapp, Facetime, and Skype.
This can be quite a rude surprise for people who travel to the UAE for business and rely on those apps to connect with their clients or colleagues.
To make matters worse, the law regarding cyber-crime in the UAE is very strict and carries harsh penalties. Any attempts to access the banned websites may result in prosecution, fines, and imprisonment.
Despite the restriction, many residents and travellers to the UAE manage to get passed the censorship by using a VPN—the only option to access services like Skype so that important meetings are able to be conducted.
VPNs are also helpful for travellers to cities like Dubai to watch geo-restricted content, such as their favourite TV Shows on Netflix US or Hulu. They can remain up-to-date on all their binge-worthy programs.
Key Features For A VPN That Works In UAE
A VPN or virtual private network is a technology that changes the IP address and encrypts data sent from a device. Theoretically, subscribing to any VPN will give you access to the prohibited apps and sites in the UAE.
However, not all VPNs will get past the internet restriction set by the ISPs in the UAE. The government as been zealous in controlling internet access and ISPs have been blocking VPNs from functioning in the country.
Most of the VPNs available no longer work in the UAE. For those that do, you’ll need to ensure that they provide total stealth and security when you’re using the VPN network. You don’t want to be dragged into unwanted legal issues regarding your use of a VPN in the UAE.
If you’re going to the UAE or living in the country, you’ll need to get a VPN that not only bypasses the restrictions but also has the following features:
- No DNS/IP leak—Check that the VPN app doesn’t have DNS or IP leak issues, which unknowingly exposes your actual IP address.
- Kill switch—A kill switch automatically terminates the internet connection when you suffer a dropped VPN connection.
- Obfuscated servers—Typical VPN servers only encrypt your internet traffic and mask the IP address. An obfuscated server keeps you out of sight of the ISPs and bypasses internet firewalls.
- Military-grade encryption—AES-256 encryption is the accepted standard and any VPN you choose should use this security feature. It’s technically unbreakable even by brute force attempts.
Is Using a VPN Legal in UAE?
According to the latest amendment on the law governing the use of VPN in the UAE states, it’s illegal to use a VPN for criminal activities and carries hefty penalties. If you’re using a VPN to access blocked services or for fear of being intercepted by hackers, you’re not breaking the law.
In other words, using a VPN is not illegal, but committing or abetting crimes with the technology is.
Should You Use A Free VPN in UAE?
There are several free VPNs and some may function in Dubai or other parts of the UAE. However, we advise against using free VPNs, particularly when you’re in a country with strict internet censorship laws.
We found that free VPNs are generally inferior in terms of safety and stealth. Some free VPNs use obsolete encryption technologies that are known to be vulnerable to attacks. You also risk having your IP address exposed if you’re using services that are suffering from IP or DNS leaks.
The savings you may have by not subscribing isn’t worth the subpar protection, especially in countries where there is strict internet censorship.
Best VPNs For UAE
At the moment of writing, the ISPs in the UAE are clamping down hard on VPN providers. We found four premium VPNs that are still granting access despite the country’s strict censorship.
NordVPN is arguably one of the best VPNs around, and for good reasons. Based in Panama, NordVPN has a strict no-log policy and it’s not obligated to share information with government agencies.
It has a considerable vast network of 5200+ servers across 59 countries. NordVPN allows you to connect to special obfuscated servers in the UAE, which hides your connection from ISPs. Also, the built-in kill-switch and AES-256 encryption keep your connection safe while you’re in the UAE.
At this moment, NordVPN is blocked by Etisalat but still works with Du and other ISPs in the UAE.
Surfshark is a considerably new VPN that grabs the limelight for the right reasons. It offers great pricing for its subscriptions and allows unlimited device connections. Surfshark operates from the British Virgin Islands and has a clearly-worded no-logging policy.
Both the Camouflage and the No-Borders™ mode are pivotal in bypassing internet censorship in the UAE. When connected to Surfshark’s servers, you’re protected by the AES-256 encryption and well-hidden from the ISPs.
The kill switch is also handy in keeping you protected on Surfshark’s app. Surfshark is actively used by residents in the UAE with only rare cases of connectivity issues.
3. Assguard (iOS only)
Assguard is a free app for iPhone and iPad for those who are worrying about staying anonymous over the network and want to unblock censored content or service.
It automatically adjusts your device’s network settings to the user's particular needs. Whether it’s staying fully anonymous over your network, browsing without advertisements or going online as if you were in any other country
All of the above require some sophisticated VPN protocol trickery. And AssGuard does this for you without the need for any geeky setup. Just install and launch the app, chose what you want to do (watch US Netflix, surf the web without adds or unblock Skype) and break free from online limits.
ExpressVPN is known for its blazing-speed connection despite having only 160 server locations in 90 countries. It takes privacy into the next level with the TrustedServer technology, where data is never written on a hard drive.
The AES-256 encryption and underlying technology work effortlessly to bypass internet restrictions in the UAE while keeping you protected. It also features a kill-switch that protects IP exposure on a dropped VPN connection.
ExpressVPN is an excellent choice for accessing prohibited services such as VoIP in the UAE. The high-speed connection helps in ensuring decent call quality.
PrivateVPN claims to “unlock anything” and it had no problem accessing content in the UAE. It uses AES-256 encryption and common protocols like OpenVPN to keep users safe on the internet. Your privacy is also guaranteed as PrivateVPN has a strict no-logs policy.
If you’re hoping to access streaming services while you’re in Dubai, PrivatePVN is an inexpensive option. You should be able to stream the likes of Hulu and BBC iPlayer. The Windows version of PrivateVPN features a kill switch, which is essential in the UAE.
Internet restriction and the harsh laws that govern the usage of VPN make the UAE an intimidating country for residents and travellers. With that said, we believe you ought to stay protected from malicious hackers on the internet and have access to apps like Skype or Whatsapp in the country.
It’s crucial to select the right VPN that not only bypasses the restrictive UAE firewall but also keeps your identity hidden and details safe. This list of recommended VPNs work in the UAE and have all the necessary criteria to keep your identity protected.
Sign up to the VPNs now and stay protected in the UAE.