If you’re living in or planning to visit Dubai, you’ll quickly find that some of the best internet content and websites have been restricted and your browsing may be monitored. The UAE, and therefore Dubai, have strict censorship laws that limit access to many websites and online services such as Flickr, as well as most pornographic sites. Even worse, applications such as Skype and IMO, and torrenting programs are also blocked. Read on to find out how to you can still open blocked sites in the UAE by using a VPN like ExpressVPN.
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Why Is My Web Content Access Limited in UAE?
Dubai is a part of the United Arab Emirates and is subject to the nation’s very strict internet censorship laws. A great deal of content in Dubai is blocked, including, but certainly not limited to:
- Dubai porn
- SIP services, such as Skype and IMO
- Social networking and dating sites, including Match.com
- All Israeli domains
- Anything not fitting with the moral values of the country
- Politically sensitive material
Unfortunately, the list goes on. With the government’s cast-iron grip on internet content, you may have a difficult time to open blocked sites in UAE.
Sign up for a VPN before travelling to Dubai to ensure that none of your access is ever limited, and that your activity is always kept both anonymous and private.
Why do I need a VPN in Dubai?
If you’re not a tech expert, a VPN—also known as a virtual private network—is a tool people use to mask their internet activity. It allows you to use a server in a different country to make authorities and websites see your IP address as coming from a different location.
VPNs let users get around local restrictions and monitoring. With VPNs, you can beat even Dubai’s strict regulations by using a foreign IP address to connect to the web, enabling you to access all the content you need. You can visit any website and online services without worrying about government snooping and harsh restrictions.
It also means that you can view TV, movies, and even unblocked porn sites in UAE. If your concern is privacy, VPNs are designed to keep anyone from peeping at your sensitive data or browsing history. With a VPN, Dubai authorities will not be able to track you or prevent you from accessing any online content.
Are VPNs Illegal in UAE Dubai?
Up until quite recently, VPNs were legal to use in Dubai. In 2016 a new law arrived stating that using a fraudulent network address was no longer allowed, which is simple enough. However, it continued to specify prosecution would only take place when the software was employed ‘for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery.’ According to the legislation, any infringements will result in a short prison sentence, a fine between Dhs 500,000 and Dhs 2,000,000, or both.
The vague wording of the new law has caused some understandable confusion. Seemingly, it’s not actually illegal to install and use a VPN, just to do so while accessing blocked content. The Abu Dhabi Public Prosecution Office has attempted to provide clarity, stating that the law is only relevant when viewing content or apps that wouldn’t already be available in Dubai. Specific reference has also been made to the use of VoIP. Services like Skype have always had a rocky relationship with the UAE, and this appears to be another attempt to quash them for good.
While this law may seem straightforward at first glance, it fails to take into consideration all corporations who use virtual private networks to create internal online systems for staff. Many companies rely on censored VoIP apps to stay relevant on the global stage; cutting this resource would inevitably impact the UAE economy!
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Most VPN users are accustomed to existing in the grey areas of the law. Plus, crackdowns such as this have already occurred in many countries and failed to curb the use of proxy networks. However, there is an important word of warning: UAE is not known for their leniency. Plenty of evidence exists of prison terms and harsh fines for seemingly minor online infractions. It is possible to take steps to use a VPN in Dubai safely, but you do so at your own risk.
If you still want to use a VPN to watch Netflix, or catch up with relatives overseas, be sure to opt for the best quality services to keep you safe from prosecution. Using a subpar VPN means the connection is likely to drop out and expose your identity to anyone monitoring the traffic. High-grade encryption, a kill switch, and guaranteed uptime are essential!
Alternatively, if you’re just looking to call home, both Du and Etisalat offer VPN add-ons that allow you to call overseas, so long as the VoIP app is legal at both ends. The package starts at Dhs 50 per month, but you can use it with complete peace of mind.
Best Dubai VPN Services Available in 2018
VPNs are great, but they’re not all equally powerful. We recommend ExpressVPN, but here are the top choices designed to fit your needs:
#1 ExpressVPN – Best VPN for Dubai – Great VPN Speed and Secure Connection
ExpressVPN is easily the best VPN for Dubai. The company offers an impressive number of features, a secure connection, and outstanding customer support.
Top Features: This service offers some of the highest and most consistent speeds when browsing the web and streaming content. ExpressVPN hosts an impressive 1,500 servers in over 90 countries. Even for gaming, the service showed no signs of slowing down and delivered a smooth experience. During stress tests, ExpressVPN did not experience drop-offs in quality.
A single ExpressVPN subscription can be used with up to three devices at a time, including mobile devices. The company delivers 24/7 customer support and some of the highest quality assistance. Overall, ExpressVPN remains the best VPN for UAE.
The pricing options include a 12-month plan for $6.67 with an additional 3 months free. They also offer a 30-day full money-back guarantee with all their plans, so you can benefit from the free vpn service until you decide to enroll.
12 Months + 3 Months FREE
Get our expert review on ExpressVPN on our ExpressVPN review.
#2 PrivateVPN for Dubai – Fast VPN and Zero Logging
If your primary reason for using a VPN is protecting your personal information, PrivateVPN’s zero logs policy and security features may be appealing.
Top Features: PrivateVPN’s major focus is providing a secure browsing experience for their users, which is a vital concern in Dubai. The company has a strict zero-log policy for user activity and a strong uptime rating of 98.8%. PrivateVPN also offers robust encryption for all browsing done through their VPN servers.
Although the number of server alternatives is less than many competitors, with slightly over 80 in over 50 countries, they tend to be very reliable. Speed is also strong even internationally. You can readily stream video and games at high quality with little drop-off.
The company offers an affordable subscription plan that can start as low as $4.50 per month. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can benefit from a free VPN trial.
#3 NordVPN for Dubai – Free VPN 30-Day trial and User-Friendly App
Coming in at second place, NordVPN offers a strong alternative for customers looking for a free trial and robust features.
Top Features: One of NordVPN’s biggest strengths is their easy-to-use interface, which makes finding the right server and browsing the web a breeze. The service’s graphic interface lets you see where servers are located and quickly access any of them. If you’re wondering how to watch porn in Dubai, NordVPN gives you a slightly slower connection than some competitors, but is still a reliable option for variable locations.
NordVPN provides users with 56 countries and 1,000 servers to choose from. This gives users a good range of access for websites and to access geo-restricted content.
The company stands out with a great 30-day free VPN trial. If you want to subscribe for 1 month only, the price is $11.95; for 6 months, $7.00/mo; and for 12 months, the price is $5.75, Their most affordable subscription is currently at $3.29/mo if you subscribe for 2 years (72% off).
More information on NordVPN features can be found on our expert’s NordVPN review.
#4 HideMyAss VPN for Dubai – Fast streaming
If you’re using a VPN in Dubai primarily to access blocked sites, then HideMyAss’s fast streaming and hundreds of servers could work for you.
Top Features: HideMyAss’ best asset is its huge number of servers worldwide so that its users can always find one nearby. HideMyAss has 30 in the Middle East, and they tend to be fast. Normal torrenting is permitted although not P2P file sharing.
HideMyAss uses strong OpenVPN encryption to keep its users’ personal details and internet activity hidden from surveillance. There are also no IP leaks. HideMyAss does keep logs of some identifying details of its users, but it promises not to hand them over unless there has been illegal activity according to UK law.
The company offers a subscription plan for $11.52 per month or $6.56/mo for a year subscription along with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can benefit from a free VPN trial.
Visit our HideMyAss review for more information.
#5 SaferVPN for Dubai – Fast VPN with a 1 Day Totally Free Trial
SaferVPN is quite new in town but they are certainly up for competition. Though they currently only have active servers in 34 countries, they have a very large number of them, 700 to be precise. SaferVPN offers a great alternative to ExpressVPN as it is quite reasonably priced and is great for those looking for a free trial.
Top Features: One big plus of SaferVPN if that they offer a no-log policy, perfect for streaming and accessing content in Dubai. Users can enjoy military grade level encryption, so they don’t have to worry about governmental watchdogs peering over them. It can support just about any device you can name and shouldn’t slow down your connection too much.
Even though torrents are not supported, users should be able to easily access geo-restricted content included the US Netflix library and Skype to name a few; perfect for those stuck without those channels in Dubai.
It offers a 30-day money back-guarantee on top of their 24 hour free trial. Subscribing for a month will set you back $9.99, 12 months will cost $4.99/month and 24 months at $3.49/month. In other words it is quite reasonable!
More information on SaferVPN can be found on our SaferVPN review.
More information on Cyberghost VPN features can be found on our expert’s Cyberghost review.
How to Open Blocked Sites in Dubai with a VPN
While it may seem difficult, you can easily set up a UAE VPN free of charge. Follow these simple steps to get started:
- Choose Your VPN and Pay for Your Subscription: Whether choosing ExpressVPN’s yearly plan or going for a monthly plan with PureVPN, uncover the best option and choose your plan.
- Download the Client on Your Devices: Most VPNs will request that you download a simple client that lets you control all options for your connection.
- Install the Client: Once downloaded, you can simply click the file and it will automatically install on your computer or mobile device. CyberGhost offers the easiest setup, with a preconfigured client already optimized for connection. Others, such as NordVPN or PrivateVPN, may ask that you configure some additional settings.
- Choose Your Server, and Start Browsing: The last step is to select your server. Depending on the content you want to access, choose a server in that location and browse away!
Best FREE VPN for Dubai
Most new VPN users tend to automatically opt for a free option, rather than a paid subscription. There are both upsides and downsides to this choice, and it’s essential to have a comprehensive understanding before you commit. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a sticky situation!
- No charge
- No sign up
- No commitment
- Benefit from free trial
- Speed issues
- Connection drops
- Waiting queue before connection
- Less server options
- Most basic encryption
- No extra features
like "kill switch"
- May be a threat to anonymity
- Fast speeds
- First and foremost, it’s free – which is obviously a significant advantage.
- Often, there’s no sign-up needed, so you don’t have to worry about inputting payment details and other personal information.
- You aren’t committed to a subscription, so you can shop and change between providers as necessary.
- You can “try before you buy” to see if the VPN is right for you.
While these are all legitimate benefits, the list of drawbacks is not to be overlooked. Free VPNs don’t have a good reputation when it comes to security, and there are many reasons for this.
- Most free VPNs have issues with speed that are frustrating for streaming or downloading.
- Connection drops are almost guaranteed with a free VPN, leaving you open to prosecution if you are on a site deemed ‘illegal’ in UAE – e.g., accessing porn or gambling platforms.
- Users often have to wait in a queue before they can connect to servers.
- Speaking of servers, free VPNs offer less server options than their paid counterpart.
- A free VPN client only uses the most basic encryption, considerably jeopardizing your security – particular on iPhones and other mobile devices, when using public networks.
- Companies that only offer free VPNs struggle to make revenue, so extra features are non-existent due to lack of investment.
- Some free providers sell your data to keep financially afloat, completely negating the privacy benefits of the software.
In short, if you’re planning to access restricted content in Dubai then using a free VPN is not a safe option. If you’re stuck for cash, then look for a premium provider that runs free trials or a money-back guarantee policy. This way you can enjoy the privacy of advanced security features.
If you want to run a VPN for other reasons, then it doesn’t matter if you’re detected. Here are a few examples of providers that offer a free version of their software in Dubai:
We highly recommend that you take the time to research the UAE VPN law and precisely determine what is defined as restricted content before using a free VPN in Dubai. Similarly, although it may be tempting to use this software illegally as a one-off, assuming you won’t get caught, it’s not worth the risk. Free providers do not have the capacity to guarantee your safety.
VPN Not Working in UAE?
If you can’t seem to get your VPN to work, don’t worry! The software can be tricky to configure and can often fault for seemingly no reason. Unfortunately, all technology is liable to bugs and, with so much pressure on VPN software, they often fall victim to blocks or technical loopholes. Usually, these problems can be fixed. To diagnose why your VPN is not working in Dubai, follow these steps:
- Check Simple Configuration Elements. It’s easy to spend ages on configuration and then overlook the simplest factors. Make sure your VPN isn’t attached to a Dubai server, as this will grant you to the same content as you had before. Try and go for locations with open internet policies, such as the US. If you connect to countries like China or Russia, you’ll be stuck with similar restrictions.
- Website Blocks. Has your VPN been working in general, but when you visit a specific site it’s loading an error screen? Particular websites have started to impose their own bans, using complicated filters to try and identify VPN traffic. Netflix is perhaps the most prominent example of this, as many large VPN providers no longer bypass blocks on the site. Your best bet here is to hunt for a smaller, lesser-known company, as they’ll have more chance of slipping through these blocks unnoticed
- Port/IP Blocking Attempts. VPN bans are becoming increasingly common. Whether they’re imposed by governments, local telecommunications or the commercial website itself, most use the same tactics to enforce the block. One of the most common ways is to blacklist certain ports and IP addresses that are known to host VPN traffic. Providers offer various amounts of manual control over their software; if you’re running a VPN where you can switch ports/protocols, try playing around with these options. If not, see if you have better luck by choosing another server.
- Connectivity & DNS Issues. Sometimes, the problem is not with the VPN configuration, but the connection itself. The best way to check your connectivity is through a ping test, usually used to assess speed. Each VPN provider has a different set of instructions on how to carry out this check, so you’ll have to research the specific steps. Doing a ping test also shows you if the software is lagging, which may be an alternative cause of the issue.
- Contact Provider. If, after checking all of the above, your VPN still isn’t working then it’s worth contacting the provider. Many companies offer an instant chat service that will give you a rapid response. Otherwise, you may have to join a ticketed-queue that will take a few days for a reply. Some VPN sites also offer extensive literature for troubleshooting problems, if you have the time to leaf through it all.
- Try a Different VPN. If your provider can’t seem to solve the problem, it may be that your VPN has reached redundancy. Take advantage of the free trials and money-back policies to test out different VPN services. If you can get one of these to work, then it’s probably time to swap providers!
What we Recommend as the Best VPN in Dubai
Conclusion: Use Express VPN for Fast, Unlimited Access to Websites in Dubai.
As part of the UAE, Dubai has some of the harshest internet censorship laws. More than just political content, they also block many websites and services customers worldwide can easily access. If you’re wondering how to watch porn in Dubai, or access Netflix, Hulu or a variety of other streaming services, a VPN is the only way to go.
For the widest range of options, we recommend ExpressVPN. In terms of VPN Dubai has few other alternatives as effective at bypassing restrictions and avoiding detection. With an impressive array of servers around the world as well as robust security features, ExpressVPN is the best VPN for Dubai, giving you unfettered access to the full web.
Exclusive Limited Time Deal: 12 Months + 3 Months FREE for a yearly subscription.
For the best VPN in Dubai, get ExpressVPN.