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The Best VPNs for the UAE

Podium Rankings for Best VPN

Callum Tennent oversees how we test and review VPN services. He's a member of the IAPP, and his VPN advice has featured in Forbes and the Internet Society.

Fact-checked by Simon MiglianoAdditional Testing by Alyx Morley

The internet in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the rest of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is heavily censored.

Without a VPN, you can’t access many websites and web services, including Wikipedia, Skype, Snapchat (video chat) and WhatsApp (calls).

Only the best VPNs optimized to beat web censorship can unblock restricted websites and access the free internet from the UAE.

What Is the Best Dubai & UAE VPN in 2024?

Following our tests, the best VPNs that still work in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are:

  1. Astrill: Best VPN for the UAE
  2. ExpressVPN: Fastest VPN for the UAE
  3. PrivateVPN: Best Cheap VPN for the UAE
  4. StrongVPN: Secure No-Logs VPN for the UAE

The overall best VPN for the UAE in 2024 is Astrill, with a rating of 9.4/10. During our tests, we were highly impressed with Astrill VPN’s consistency and effectiveness at bypassing internet blocks in the UAE, including VOIP restrictions.

Almost one in three internet users in the UAE have used a VPN at some point. The problem is many VPNs aren’t safe, or aren’t effective at bypassing internet blocks.

We tested 65 VPN services on our test servers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to verify which ones actually bypassed UAE’s georestrictions.

The VPNs we recommend unblocked websites and applications easily, thanks to VPN obfuscation technology, which disguises VPN traffic as normal HTTP data transfers.

Comparison of the Best UAE VPNs

The table below compares the most highly-rated VPNs for the UAE by ability to bypass internet filters, speed, price and more.

Why Trust Us?

We’re fully independent and have been reviewing VPNs since 2016. Our ratings are based on our own testing results and are unaffected by financial incentives. Learn who we are and how we test VPNs.

Analysis of the Best UAE VPNs

  1. 1. Astrill VPN: Best VPN for the UAE

    The most consistent and reliable anti-censorship VPN in the UAE and around the world.

    Ranked #1 out of 65 VPNs for UAE
    Astrill mobile screenshotsVisit Astrill

    • StealthVPN protocol beats censors
    • No leaks and plenty of security
    • Privacy-friendly Liechtenstein jurisdiction
    • Servers in the UAE
    • Good amount of nearby servers
    • Fast and reliable speeds

    • Most expensive VPN service
    • No refund policy
    • Slower than other VPNs

    Overall UAE Rating: 9.3/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following category ratings. To learn more, read our UAE VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.9/10
    • 9.8/10
    • 8.3/10
    • 7.8/10
    • 9.1/10

    Astrill is one of the most secure and most advanced VPNs on the market – and its strength is bypassing censorship.

    Our tests show that Astrill works a staggering 100% of the time in China, which has by far the world’s strictest internet censorship system. It’s therefore not surprising that Astrill is also the best VPN to use in the UAE.

    But it does have some weaknesses: it’s not as fast as its competitors and is much more expensive.

    On local connections we recorded speeds of 92Mbps using Astrill on an 100Mbps connection, but this drops to an average of 75Mbps on international connections.

    Astrill VPN's app for iOS

    Cheapest Price$12.50/mo over two years See all plans
    Logging PolicySome User Logs
    Data LeaksNo

    An Ultra-Secure VPN Designed for Advanced Users

    Astrill isn’t a particularly beginner-friendly VPN, but advanced users will love its array of security features and encryption options.

    You have the choice between OpenVPN or Wireguard – the two safest and best VPN protocols. There’s also AES-256 encryption, split-tunneling, self-owned DNS servers, and DNS, IPV6 and WebRTC leak protection, too.

    Screenshot of Astrill's macOS client.

    Astrill VPN offers OpenWeb, OpenVPN, StealthVPN, and WireGuard protocols.

    You couldn’t ask for much more when it comes to VPN encryption and security, and our leak tests show that everything works well. We didn’t find a single leak, of any sort, when we put Astrill through our battery of security tests.

    Obfuscated Servers in UAE Neighboring countries

    What makes Astrill better than all other VPNs at bypassing censorship is its obfuscation technology. It uses a proprietary ‘StealthVPN’ protocol that disguises your traffic and effectively hides it from government firewalls.

    Astrill has VPN servers inside the UAE and a decent selection in neighboring countries, including Israel, Egypt and India.

    If you’re just trying to avoid government surveillance, then the UAE servers will do the trick. But, if you’re trying to unblock geo-restricted websites then you’ll need to connect outside of the UAE.

    Having a selection of nearby servers is good because it lets you bypass censorship, without compromising on speed too much.

    Costs An Expensive $12.50 Per Month

    Astrill is easily the best VPN for UAE, but its cost is a significant drawback.

    You’ll need to pay at least $12.50 per month, and sign up for a 12 month contract to use the service. This is more than triple the price of some other VPNs on this list.

    The VPN’s logging policy is also not quite as privacy-friendly as we would like, and the customer support could be improved. That said, you simply won’t find a VPN that performs as well in the UAE as Astrill.

  2. 2. ExpressVPN: Fastest VPN for UAE

    Fast, secure, and easy-to-use VPN that unblocks websites in the UAE.

    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devicesVisit ExpressVPN

    • Reliable choice for bypassing censorship
    • Strong AES-256 encryption and security
    • Doesn't collect any identifying data
    • Fast international speeds
    • User-friendly interface, design and support

    • Could have more nearby servers to the UAE
    • Frequent CAPTCHAs on some connections
    • More expensive than competitors

    Overall UAE Rating: 9.2/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following category ratings. To learn more, read our UAE VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.0/10
    • 9.6/10
    • 9.2/10
    • 9.7/10
    • 9.0/10

    ExpressVPN is an excellent VPN to use in the UAE and Dubai. In fact, it’s an excellent VPN to use for anything. That’s why it’s currently our top-rated VPN of 2024.

    The VPN has all the tools for bypassing censorship, including strong encryption, functioning obfuscation, and nearby servers in Pakistan, Israel and Egypt.

    Out of all the VPNs we recommend for the UAE, ExpressVPN is the fastest for the UAE, and is a great alternative to Astrill if you’re looking for something a bit cheaper.

    On local connections, we saw minimal speed loss of 3% and just 15% average speed loss on international connections.

    ExpressVPN's app for iOS

    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    Logging PolicyNo Identifying Data
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionBritish Virgin Islands (Privacy Haven)

    Effective & Easy-to-Use Obfuscation

    Setting up a VPN to use obfuscation is often a complicated process, but not with ExpressVPN. To use the VPN’s obfuscated servers, simply select the ‘Smart Location’ feature and it’ll automatically use obfuscation whenever necessary.

    ExpressVPN’s obfuscation tools don’t work in the UAE as consistently as Astrill’s, but you’ll still be able to access restricted websites most of the time. For this reason, we consider ExpressVPN to be the best UAE VPN for beginners.

    Testing ExpressVPN's internet speeds using our proprietary speed testing tool.

    ExpressVPN offers more than just impressive speed performance.

    It uses AES-256 encryption, either the trusted OpenVPN protocol or a proprietary Lightway protocol, and features a reliable kill switch.

    No UAE Servers But a Good Local Selection

    Despite having a huge 3,000 servers in its network, ExpressVPN doesn’t currently have any VPN servers located in the UAE.

    It does, however, have servers in nearby Pakistan, Israel, Egypt and India. Given ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPNs we’ve ever tested, this means you’re still able to use the VPN in the UAE with very little speed loss.

    We recorded an impressive average international speed loss of just 15% using ExpressVPN.

    Minimal Logging Policy & 30-Day Refund Offer

    ExpressVPN’s privacy-friendly logging policy was proven by a Turkish server seizure in 2017. Law enforcement was unable to find any personal information about an individual on ExpressVPN’s servers. The VPN service also has RAM-only servers that almost ensure any information saved is completely wiped periodically.

    However, it does collect some account information and anonymized bandwidth details, though this can’t be used to identify you or your activity.

    It’s also based in a privacy haven, the British Virgin Islands, free from the pressures of surveillance-heavy governments.

    At $6.67 per month, ExpressVPN is cheaper than Astrill, but still more expensive than PrivateVPN.

    That said, you can test out the service completely free of charge with its 7-day free trial or 30-day money-back guarantee offer.

  3. 3. PrivateVPN: Best Cheap VPN for UAE

    An affordable VPN with a Stealth protocol that easily beats Dubai & UAE censorship.

    Image of PrivateVPN's app on mobileVisit PrivateVPN

    • No-logs VPN
    • Excellent speeds
    • Advanced privacy with Tor over VPN
    • Server in the UAE

    • No advanced privacy settings on mobile
    • Limited local servers

    Overall UAE Rating: 9.1/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following category ratings. To learn more, read our UAE VPN testing methodology.

    • 9.4/10
    • 9.1/10
    • 9.3/10
    • 9.1/10
    • 7.5/10

    PrivateVPN works impressively well in the UAE for a VPN that costs just $2.00 per month. In our tests, we were easily able to unblock restricted websites, with quick speeds and intuitive apps.

    Using PrivateVPN, we recorded average international speeds of 82Mbps, which is slower than its competitors. However, on nearby connections, a speed loss of just 5% is more than enough for HD streaming, gaming, and casual internet browsing.

    PrivateVPN used to offer a great seven-day free trial that didn’t require any payment details upon sign-up. But since 2022, PrivateVPN no longer offers a free trial. There is still a 30-day money-back guarantee if you want to use the service for free, though.

    PrivateVPN's app for iOS

    Cheapest Price$2.00/mo over 3 years See all plans
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionSweden (14 Eyes Member)

    Excellent Value for Money

    PrivateVPN has a lot going for it as a VPN for Dubai and UAE. Not only is it a very budget-friendly VPN, it’s also a great choice for privacy and security.

    The VPN’s logging policy is strictly zero-logs and, when we tested it, we found absolutely no data leaks. You can be sure your anonymity is protected when using PrivateVPN.

    There’s a stealth protocol called Stealth VPN which we’ve used reliably to beat censorship systems in China, Turkey and – importantly – the UAE.

    PrivateVPN StealthVPN settings.

    Go to Advanced View > Stealth VPN to turn on obfuscation.

    UAE Server Available

    PrivateVPN has a disappointingly small server network overall of just 200 servers. However, it does have a UAE server location.

    There are also VPN servers in a limited number of nearby countries; namely, Israel and India. This is enough to get some fairly quick connection speeds from within the UAE, but we’d like to see PrivateVPN expand their server network in order to improve performance further.

  4. 4. StrongVPN: Secure No-Logs VPN for the UAE

    A very private VPN that is great for bypassing censorship.

    StrongVPN mobile screenshotsVisit StrongVPN

    • Scramble obfuscation tool beats censors
    • Impressive international speeds
    • Strict zero-logs policy
    • AES-256 encryption and no leaks

    • Limited local servers
    • Jurisdiction within privacy-unfriendly US
    • Hasn't been independently audited

    Overall UAE Rating: 7.5/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following category ratings. To learn more, read our UAE VPN testing methodology.

    • 7.0/10
    • 8.7/10
    • 6.6/10
    • 9.6/10
    • 6.5/10

    StrongVPN is not quite at the level of Astrill and ExpressVPN, but it’s still a good VPN to use in the UAE. When we tested StrongVPN, it managed to beat the censors a majority of the time.

    The VPN service also delivers fast and reliable international speeds. StrongVPN is the ninth-fastest VPN on our site.

    That said, we would like to see StrongVPN add more server locations closer to the UAE.

    StrongVPN's app for iOS

    Cheapest Price$3.97/mo over 12 Months See all plans
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Data LeaksNo
    JurisdictionUS (Five-Eyes Member)

    Scramble Obfuscation Tool Works Well in UAE

    StrongVPN delivers on privacy and security and beats the censors most of the time.

    StrongVPN's Preferences show OpenVPN have a Scramble feature for bypassing firewalls.

    OpenVPN Scramble is available on macOS and Windows.

    It uses a proprietary Scramble tool that wraps your OpenVPN connection in a layer of obfuscation. This works to hide your traffic among regular HTTP traffic, and so keep your activity hidden from UAE’s censorship system.

    Zero-Logs Policy & Self-Owned DNS Servers

    Alongside that, StrongVPN has a true no-logs policy — no IP addresses, browsing history, timestamps, or bandwidth details are logged.

    However, what holds the service back is its privacy-unfriendly jurisdiction in the US and lack of an independent audit to prove its following the logging policy.

    On the plus side, StrongVPN owns its DNS servers, which is rare among VPN providers and ensures your DNS requests aren’t passed through a third-party like Google.

    Lack of Nearby Server Locations

    A nearby Israel server is available on an OpenVPN connection. And there are servers in the UAE itself and in India, too.

    However, we wish StrongVPN offered more servers in the area in order to avoid server congestion.

    The VPN’s speeds are generally fast, but it would only take one of these server locations being shutdown or a sharp increase in customer base for speeds to drop dramatically.

    Overall, StrongVPN is a safe option to use in the UAE. It offers impressive international speeds, strong security, and privacy measures to protect your online activity.

The Best Free VPN for UAE

We’ve tested over 150 free VPNs and Windscribe Free is by far the best free VPN for the UAE.

Windscribe’s free VPN is an exceptional service considering it costs absolutely nothing. It’s quick, very secure, and the company has a privacy-friendly logging policy.

Windscribe Free's VPN app for iOS

The only drawbacks are a 10GB monthly data cap and a limited server network. The closest server you can get to the UAE is in Romania, which means the connection speed can be quite slow.

To use Windscribe Free to bypass censorship in the UAE, make sure to select the WStunnel or Stealth VPN protocol in the settings menu.

Why You Need a VPN in the UAE

If you live in or are traveling to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), you’ll need a VPN to use the internet with complete freedom.

The UAE is a highly-censored country. Many popular websites and services are blocked, including:

  • All Dating Apps
  • FaceTime
  • Skype
  • Snapchat
  • Wikipedia
  • WhatsApp

If you’re planning on using the internet frequently, or making VOIP calls, then you’ll need a tool to bypass the web blocks.

When you use a VPN, your real IP address is replaced with the IP address of a remote VPN server, in a location of your choosing.

And because your web activity travels through this secure server, local ISPs like Etisalat can no longer see what you’re doing online.

To work in the UAE, the best VPNs use obfuscation technology to bypass the aggressive internet filters that block normal VPN traffic.

By disguising VPN traffic as normal web traffic, obfuscation technology evades detection and bypasses these internet blocks.

The result is that you’ll be able to unblock all restricted websites and apps, including foreign streaming content.

Are VPNs Legal in UAE?

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of the UAE states that Virtual Private Networks are legal.

The Federal Law No. 12 of 2016 (amending the Cyber Crimes Law) states that a VPN is legal to use in the UAE as long as it’s not used to mask illegal activity.

If a VPN is used to hide criminal activity, the user could face imprisonment or a financial penalty between AED 500,000 (around $136,000) and AED 2 milion (roughly $545,000).

UAE Federal Law No. 12 of 2016 amending the Cyber Crimes Law

The UAE Cyber Crimes Law states that using a VPN is legal.

This isn’t unique to the UAE – using a VPN for illegal activity is illegal more or less everywhere.

However, what is illegal in the UAE includes pornography, online gambling, and even Skype. Expressing certain political or religious opinions can also be considered against the law.

For more on VPN legality, read our guide to VPN laws around the world.

How to Get the Fastest VPN Speeds in the UAE

When using a VPN to bypass censorship within the UAE, you’re going to get faster speeds if you connect to a VPN server that is physically closer to your location.

If you connect to a distant VPN server (e.g. in the US), your connection speeds will suffer, due to the distance between you and the VPN server.

Therefore, the fastest UAE VPNs will offer a good selection of servers in countries that are nearby to the UAE. For access to the free internet with the quickest speeds, you should connect to one of these servers.

Here’s an overview of where the best UAE VPNs have nearby servers:

How We Test VPNs for the UAE

Censorship in the UAE means residents and visitors don’t have full access to the free, global internet.

We’ve tested hundreds of VPNs to see which ones do the best job of restoring your internet freedom from within the UAE.

To find the best VPNs for the UAE, we look for:

  • Ability to reliably and consistently bypass UAE’s website blocks.
  • Strong encryption and obfuscation technologies.
  • Fast connection speeds from within the country.
  • VPN servers in the UAE and nearby countries.
  • No IPv4, IPv6, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.
  • A minimal logging policy.

We’ve split the analysis into five main subcategories. Each subcategory is differently weighted according to how important it is for UAE VPNs.

Here is how the top-rated UAE VPNs performed in each of our key testing categories:

Here’s a detailed breakdown of each testing category:

1. Bypassing UAE Censorship: 40%

Minimum Requirement: Access censored content in the UAE over 50% of the time.
We Recommend: Access censored content in the UAE over 80% of the time.

A large number of popular websites and services are blocked within the UAE. The primary to use a VPN in the country is to unblock these sites.

To measure a VPN’s ability to bypass censorship, we run tests to see if the VPN lets us access blocked content from within the UAE.

We run these tests multiple times, with different types of blocked content, to see how consistently the VPN is able to beat the censors.

2. Obfuscation Technology: 20%

Minimum Requirement: A form of obfuscation technology.
We Recommend: Multiple types of effective obfuscation.

Obfuscation technology, often in the form of ‘Stealth’ protocols, are crucial for a VPN to evade strict censorship regimes.

Obfuscation disguises your traffic by wrapping in a protective layer that hides it in amongst regular HTTPS traffic.

This makes it much harder for the Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) tools – that censorship systems like the Great Firewall of China use to detect VPN users – to identify and block your connection.

We first check whether the VPN includes an obfuscation protocol and then we test the service using that protocol, to see how effectively it works.

3. Privacy & Logging Policy: 20%

Minimum Requirement: A clear privacy policy with only anonymised logs.
We Recommend: A strict zero-logs policy.

There’s no point using a VPN that is collecting and storing information about you and your activity. This is especially true in authoritarian countries like the UAE.

We examine each VPN service’s privacy policy in detail to make sure they’re not logging any data they shouldn’t be.

We would never recommend a VPN that doesn’t protect you privacy.

4. Speed: 10%

Minimum Requirement: Average international download speeds above 40Mbps.
We Recommend: Average international download speeds above 60Mbps.

Connection speed can make or break a VPN service. All VPNs will reduce your speed to some degree, but some VPNs are so fast you won’t even notice it.

We conduct weekly manual speeds tests to see which VPNs have the fastest speeds around the world. We test both local, domestic connections and long-distance, international connections.

For a UAE VPN, international speeds are the most important because, more often than not, you’ll be using the VPN to connect outside the country.

5. Nearby Servers to the UAE: 10%

Minimum Requirement: VPN servers in at least two nearby countries.
We Recommend: VPN servers in the UAE and multiple nearby countries.

VPN server locations are important for speed, too. The further a VPN connection has to travel, the slower you speeds will be.

That’s why we inspect each VPN’s server network list to assess how good its selection of UAE-adjacent servers is. We check for servers in Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, India and Turkey.

We also factor in whether the VPN offers servers within the UAE itself. These servers won’t help you bypass the geographic restrictions, but they will give you the fastest speeds and protect you from government surveillance.