UAE internet is heavily censored, with the monarchy controlling all ISPs and all content that’s available to citizens online.
Political and religious content deemed offensive, plus porn and services like WhatsApp and Wikipedia, are all banned.
Whether you live there or are just visiting, you need a VPN. We’ve picked our five favorites guaranteed to beat UAE censors.
Wondering why you should trust our reviews? Take a look at How We Test VPNs
When it comes to the UAE, the myriad of free VPNs aren’t going to cut it. You need a premium VPN that does exactly what it says it will do: secure encryption of your data, privacy friendly logging policies, and additional obfuscation tools that hide the fact that you’re using a VPN.
Our tests indicate that only these obfuscation and security features will grant you access to otherwise censored content. We regularly examine the VPNs that actually do this so that you can protect your privacy and continue to access popular sites and streaming services.
If you’re fine staying within the limited confines of censorship within the UAE, then no. But for those who want greater internet freedom, a VPN is an absolute necessity.
The UAE is a highly-censored country when it comes to the internet, ranked 69/100 – ‘Not Free’ – by Freedom House. Popular messaging services such as Skype and WhatsApp are blocked or censored, along with gambling and dating sites and a sizable number of Wikipedia pages and YouTube videos. The censors are also extremely strict with regards to nudity.
While there has been some controversy as to whether a VPN is legal either in theory or practice, UAE Federal Law No. 12 of 2016 amending the Cyber Crimes Law states that a VPN is legal to use right until it is employed to mask illegal activity.
However, what is illegal in the UAE is quite different to what a citizen in the West takes for granted, including accessing pornographic or gambling sites. The punishment can also be harsher, whereby transgression of these laws can be punishable by a huge fine. In this case, be sure to familiarise yourself with the local law.
Given the sensitivity of using a VPN in the UAE, it’s critical that your VPN offers some kind of stealth measure.
This can be a proprietary protocol and/or compatibility with TCP Port 443 (the port used by HTTPS traffic). This additional layer of obfuscation hides the VPN traffic from the censors and helps avoid being blocked.
This kind of information can sometimes be hard to find on the provider websites, so look to our picks on this page to call this out.
It’s essential to know the logging policy of the VPN provider when searching for a UAE VPN. Many VPNs claim ‘zero-logs’ without fulfilling their promises.
You can consult our in-depth reviews to find which VPNs live up to their claims and ensure that you obtain a truly secure VPN.
For a maximally functioning VPN, it’s best to seek those that have operating servers close to the location in question or, ideally, within the country itself. Connections are stronger this way and there is less congestion.
In this case, countries like Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are the ideal servers.
A VPN kill switch cuts of all internet activity should the VPN connection cease for some reason or another. This is an essential security feature that prevents your true IP address from being revealed.
Its particularly essential in a draconian nation like UAE, which has been known to dish out extensive penalties for transgressing internet laws.
The VPN situation in the UAE is constantly changing. Even top-rated VPN providers aren’t guaranteed to be working at any given moment, due to the blocks imposed by the government in the country. While this page is your best resource for finding out the best VPNs to use in the UAE, it’s worth considering a back-up VPN if access is critical while you’re there.
It is usually the case that VPNs work out considerably cheaper on longer subscription plans, so it’s always worth checking the providers offers.
A long refund period is also idea, some lasting up to 30 days. That essentially means you get a months free trial.
These guarantees come in very useful if you’re going on holiday to high-censorship countries such as the UAE, as if you have any problems you can simply get your money back.
Just be sure to check any restrictions or caps that could prevent a full refund.