Anybody who is age 18 or above is eligible to buy Emirati SIM cards in Dubai. Dubai is a city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and UAE has only two mobile network operators, Etisalat and Du, and two MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), Swyp UAE and Virgin Mobile UAE. Swyp UAE is an Etisalat UAE MVNO and Virgin Mobile UAE is a Du MVNO. The city is certainly known for being expensive, and buying a SIM card there is no exception.
You can get a local SIM card here as low as 55 AED ($15) but also up to 99 AED ($27). Paying 15 USD isn’t cheap, and even worse, the roaming rates are exorbitant. But despite all that, you will gladly enjoy the fastest mobile download speed in the world. The average mobile download speed in the UAE is 190 Mbps, which is, at this time, the fastest on Earth.
Etisalat is the largest wireless carrier in the UAE. It’s also the winner of the prestigious award for the world’s fastest mobile network in 2020. The carrier is also considered by many to be the best mobile operator in the country on all parameters. Etisalat also operates in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The company operates on 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G networks, having the best network coverage in the UAE. Unfortunately, only 2G or 3G may work in desert areas. Etisalat SIM card, known as Wasel Prepaid Line, is available at 55 AED with 1 GB data valid for 7 days on the first recharge. It is important to note that the travelers and tourists will only get Visitor Lines instead of Wasel Prepaid Line when getting a connection from this carrier.
Furthermore, the validity of your Visitor Line is tied to the duration of your visa. However, this doesn’t apply to people on work visas. They can easily activate a regular Etisalat SIM and enjoy all the benefits of many of its plans. You can even get an Etisalat embedded SIM for the same price as the regular one. Note that you can only use an eSIM if you have an iPhone XS/XS Max/XR. Etisalat SIM cards get deactivated automatically after no top-up or no activity for 12 months continuously. The mobile service provider supports various top-up options: 25 AED, 50 AED, 100 AED, 200 AED, and 500 AED. Apart from these top-ups, the company has 11 data-featured plans too.
Du is the second-best option in terms of SIM cards in Dubai, UAE. It is mostly popular among the migrant worker community, which was the carrier’s initial target group. Du operates on 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G networks with excellent coverage across the country, though it has weak coverage in the desert areas. A Du SIM is available for as low as 55 AED, and you can also get a Du eSIM for the same price. However, if you transfer your Du standard SIM card to a Du eSIM, there is an upgrade fee of 20 AED.
To activate and use your Du eSIM, you must have an iPhone 11/11 Pro/11 Pro Max or iPhone XS/XS Max/XR. For tourists and travelers, Du offers Du Visitor SIM. Before the pandemic, Du used to hand out its SIM card for free with 20 MB of data along with some credit balance. Your Du SIM card gets automatically deactivated if it remains inactive (no top-up and no activity) for 6 months. However, your phone number will stay in reserve for 12 months even after deactivation. The company offers three data-featured plans along with top-up plans.
3. Swyp UAE
Swyp is the youth brand by Etisalat that targets people within the age group of 18 to 29 years. What’s more, anyone outside this age range is forbidden from buying this SIM card. This MVNO operates on Etisalat’s network, as it doesn’t have a mobile network infrastructure of its own. SIM cards from this carrier are sold alongside the main plan, known as The Core, and priced at 99 AED. Also, The Core is the only plan you can get with Swyp that lets you purchase add-ons.
These SIM cards are available not only in all Etisalat stores but also in all their partner stores. The Core plan comes with 1 GB of data, unlimited social media data for specific apps, 120 Flexi voice minutes to around 100 countries, and unlimited UAE Wi-Fi data. You can recharge your Swyp SIM cards with Etisalat top-up vouchers or with the Swyp UAE app available on Android and iOS. Finally, their eVouchers and top-ups are available for 25 AED, 50 AED, 100 AED, 200 AED, and 500 AED.
Virgin Mobile UAE is not only an MVNO that uses Du’s network coverage but is also owned by Du. That’s because Virgin Mobile’s mobile infrastructure doesn’t extend to the country. Virgin Mobile is actually a British multinational telecom operating in Europe, the Middle East, Mexico, and South America. You can get a Virgin Mobile SIM card for free from official, authorized, or partner stores, but they are only sold bundled with a payment plan. This means you have to spend at least 36.75 AED (plan price) to get a Virgin Mobile SIM card. The top-up vouchers are available at Virgin Mobile stores and its partner stores, and the Virgin Mobile UAE app.
Virgin Mobile subscribers have top-up options of 20 AED, 50 AED, 100 AED, and 200 AED. The company offers three data-featured plans, all available on the Virgin Mobile UAE app. Moreover, they offer Boosters, i.e., add-ons for data, local minutes, and international minutes. Sadly, you can’t buy Boosters as standalone plans. There are also Build Your Own Plan (BYOP) packs offered by Virgin Mobile UAE. As the name suggests, you can precisely configure how much data, international minutes and SMS, and local minutes and SMS you’ll need monthly. These packages have a minimum 79 AED price with a validity of 28 days.