Finding The Best VPN To Use In Dubai: My Expat Story

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Update: January 1st, 2018


Moving to Dubai was not an easy decision to make. First, my girlfriend and I were pretty settled in our new flat. We were living close to both our families and were pretty happy with our lives. We had even begun to talk about starting a family.

Moving to the Middle East would not have even have crossed our minds. But then my Boss called me in for that meeting. I have to be honest, there was only one real incentive to make the move. Money. They were offering me a huge pay rise… more than twice my regular salary, as well as an apartment, car, and basically everything we would need. Oh and they kept stressing the fact that I’d be paying no tax… not a cent.

It took a few weeks to make up our minds, but in the end we decided it was just too good a package to turn down. A month on, and our flat was rented, possessions in boxes, and we were on the plane. Settling in was pretty easy for me, as I had work to go to, but for my girlfriend it was a lot harder. She spent a lot of time at our apartment to begin with, and missed home a lot.

I decided she needed some good old US entertainment to keep her spirits up, so looked into setting up a Netflix account for her. 

Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to get access to most of the entertainment services I was accustomed to. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Licensing restrictions
  • Censorship by the United Arab Emirates government

I quickly discovered that the United Arab Emirates has a more conservative view on free speech. They censor content that is overtly adult, dating or blasphemous. The censorship policies are implemented by the TRA (Telecom Regulatory Authority), although the nation’s telecom oligopoly plays a role in censoring content as well. Du and Etisalat are the major ISP providers and many residents feel they routinely block content at their own discretion.

The good news is that the authorities aren’t nearly as stringent as their counterparts in many other countries, such as China and even Brazil. The bad news is that they aren’t always very clear on their policies.

You also have to deal with intellectual property right restrictions. Entertainment companies like Netflix only purchase the rights to stream content in certain areas. They typically buy these rights in large countries like the United States, where they have a larger market. Since the market for entertainment services in the UAE is pretty small, they don’t operate there.

It turned out I couldn’t get US Netflix in Dubai without a VPN, so that’s where I headed next.

As it turned out, having a VPN in UAE has opened up a whole new link back to the country we both miss. We can access so many sites that were restricted to us here, as well as watching all the best shows on Netflix and keep up with the news stations too.

So why would you use a VPN instead of a free web proxy? There are several reasons:

  • Proxies tend to be very slow. If you want to a decent streaming experience on Netflix, you will need a speed of at least 2 megabits per second. If you want to watch Netflix in HD, you need speeds of at least 5 megabits per second. The average web proxy is far too slow.
  • Web proxies may hide your IP address from Netflix, but they don’t offer any protection from your ISP. Du and Etisalat are under a lot of pressure from the telecommunications authority to keep users from accessing prohibited content. Even if Netflix allows you to access their service, the telecommunications companies may use DNS poisoning or another trick to keep you from using the content.
  • While web proxies hide your real IP address, they don’t always do a great job at it. They often pass personally identifiable information with your HTTP requests, so Netflix may determine your real location.

If you don’t want to have your service interrupted by either Netflix or your local ISP, you should use a VPN instead. Using a VPN in UAE is even more important if you intend to watch movies on Netflix that the UAE or Dubai governments may deem obscene, because you may be facing serious charges. If the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) believes the content you view on Netflix violates obscenity laws, you could be facing up to six months in prison and a fine between Dh150,000 and Dh1 million. Since the laws are pretty vague (especially for foreigners), it is best not to avoid broadcasting that you are watching anything racy on Netflix.

We are both settled here now and pretty happy. Baby talk is back on the agenda, and I firmly believe it is discovering VPNs which helped us get to this point. Almost all the ex-pats we have met here seem to use one, and after speaking to them I have put together this short guide to help anyone else looking to identify the best VPN Dubai users should go with.

So check out the 5 best VPN UAE providers, which I list and go into detail on below:

Overview


Individual breakdown of each VPN...

#1 ExpressVPN

best vpn dubai 6

Overall Score

Price

Features

Speed

Customer Service

Company Summary

ExpressVPN is the VPN we use here in Dubai, and despite dabbling with others, we still feel it offers the best level of performance and consistency of service. The installation process is nice and easy, the interface is very straightforward and its speeds are fast and consistent. It can be used on almost every device you can imagine, and also offers top notch privacy settings. They also offer a comprehensive range of servers encompassing almost every country you can think of.


Pricing Summary

$12.95 for one month account
$9.99 per month for 6 month account
$8.32 per month for 12 month account​

Homepage Snapshot

best vpn dubai 7

Operating System Compatibility

VPN Protocols Offered

L2TP

PPTP

OPEN VPN

Pros

- A 30 Day Money Back Guarantee if you are not completely satisfied.  

- Dedicated Apps for Android and iOS devices

- A wide variety of internationally recognized payment options. 

- A really easy installation, registration, and setup process. 

Cons

- They are in the middle-to-higher price bracket

- They require different logins if you use their service across multiple devices


ExpressVPN has a zero logging policy, so you don’t have to worry about being traced in any way. ExpressVPN is also based in the British Virgin Islands, which is known for its steadfast commitment to protecting user privacy. This is important, because you don’t want the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) to find any traces that you have been using a VPN to access Netflix.

You shouldn’t have any trouble streaming content on Netflix with ExpressVPN, because speed tests have shown that it can be as fast as 122 megabits per second, which is 24 times as fast as you need to stream Netflix in HD.

Summary
Article Name
Finding The Best VPN To Use In Dubai: My Expat Story
Description
Guide showing how to find the best VPN for Dubai and UAE.
Author
Chris Beattie

27 Answers

    1. Chris Beattie
      November 14, 2017 at 6:55 am

      Hey Gordon – very fair question. This is an important topic to understand. Here is what I understand about using a VPN in the UAE today: It is apparently illegal to use a VPN to access services that are geo-blocking (thus you are breaking the terms and services of that service) BUT — it is apparently not illegal to use a VPN in the UAE for personal privacy protection. So on the incredibly slim-to-zero chance of you getting “caught” by the government using a VPN, I can guess you will be able to easily justify your privacy protection purposes for using it. Hope that helps, Gordon!

  1. Jocelyn
    January 26, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    I read somewhere that this so called vpn​ ​UAE is deemed illegal in these parts. Apparently, that is not true otherwise we would not be in this conversation . One thing is certain though, in these parts its rare very rare.

  2. Carlos Escamilla
    January 27, 2018 at 12:08 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. It seems that finding the best vpn for UAE was really a challenge for you. Thankfully, all ended well huh?

  3. Raymund D.
    January 27, 2018 at 12:39 am

    Wait what a CONSERVATIVE FREEDOM OF SPEECH? What the heck does that even mean? . I know censorship is a thing but come on this is over the top. No wonder establishing vpn​ ​in​ ​UAE is such a pain in the rear.

  4. James
    January 27, 2018 at 1:08 am

    Despite the chaos I think we can still be thankful even if using​ ​vpn​ ​in​ ​UAE is met with not so welcoming arms. At least it is not a total loss and users can still avail of it.

  5. S. Bennett
    January 27, 2018 at 6:06 am

    Dubai has been on my bucket list for so long. I do not know much about how things work there but still the sand dunes there are worth the trip. I will go here for sure.

  6. Zoe
    January 27, 2018 at 8:54 am

    I do not know is Saudi is part of UAE but my brother work there for two years and it was very strict. He even called girls their as NINJAS considering their get up and all. If Saudi is not part of UAE I imagine it will still be the same because of similar customs and culture.

  7. Jana S.
    January 28, 2018 at 4:19 am

    Interesting experience to say the least. That Dubai government though, I know its not my business but come on the rules they have are not CONSERVATIVE it goes way beyond that to be honest.

  8. K. Harding
    January 28, 2018 at 4:56 am

    I have not been to Dubai but I plan to go there soon. Very interesting tidbit you got here. The laws are a bit of a let down sure but admit it or not, this is one of the prettiest places in the planet.

  9. Daniela
    January 28, 2018 at 5:15 am

    I guess this makes vpn​ ​UAE a lost cause huh? I mean if the government itself is deeming it “ILLEGAL” then that looks like the message is loud and clear to me.

  10. H. Clinton
    January 28, 2018 at 9:26 am

    In my opinion before we even touch the issue of best​ ​vpn​ ​for​ ​UAE, the government may have to lighten up a bit on how they see things. Otherwise we may as well pack our bags and go home. At this rate VPN regardless of brand will always be used in exchange of looking over your shoulder always.

  11. Linda
    January 28, 2018 at 9:49 am

    It seems that time has not been so kind to vpn​ ​in​ ​UAE. For one UAE’s Twisted notion of morality is blown way beyond proportion. This is just being ” CONSERVATIVE” I wonder what liberated will look like?

  12. Lind Taylor
    January 28, 2018 at 10:29 am

    With all this talk about legality the funny thing is a lot of people are using​ ​vpn​ ​in​ ​UAE despite government restrictions. There is a glimmer of hope for this it just or may take time.

  13. James G.
    January 28, 2018 at 11:20 am

    About this VPN UAE issue all I can say is this!!! Can both parties just work it out? I mean of course that would mean UAE easing up a bit but hey. This way everybody wins UAE can censor inappropriate content and VPN users/ creators can make money even for a bit.

  14. Andrew
    January 29, 2018 at 9:21 am

    I do not understand why VPN UAE is an issue here. For one UAE Is the type of country in my opinion who does not have time for TV or whatnot. I Mean they perhaps take their time more praying.

  15. Cisko Serna
    January 29, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Personally I cannot choose which one is the best​ ​vpn​ ​for​ ​UAE. I do not even know if it even matters since the UAE laws seems to be tight in a bad way.

  16. Nadir A.
    January 29, 2018 at 10:11 am

    I agree with other notions regarding this topic. We can talk about brands and stats all day long but fact still remains that vpn​ ​in​ ​UAE still has a long battle ahead of it.

  17. Yara H.
    January 29, 2018 at 10:58 am

    I have no gripes using​ ​vpn​ ​in​ ​UAE. AS the author points out VPN Is not illegal it is just the law that restricts it. So whatever the law says goes I guess.

  18. Daniel S.
    January 29, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    This is just crazy. I can understand good values but this is a little more like an overkill is it not? I mean if they are misunderstanding conservative in all levels.

  19. Kristina
    January 29, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    I was there on Dubai last month and yes their laws are strict. Even my mom advised me to not go out to often in there andI have to wear the same clothes to just to be safe.

  20. Lisa Ackers
    January 29, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    I hate to say this but UAE is not letting up in their laws. With that said I think VPN creators will just have to hang the towel and call it a day.

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