5 best VPN services for the UAE 2017

For all its receptiveness towards foreign investments and tourists, United Arab Emirates (UAE) certainly doesn’t keep an open mind on the subject of the internet. Indeed, the country is rather oppressive when it comes to online activities, imposing severe censorship that includes blocking VoIP services such as Skype and WhatsApp, certain parts of Wikipedia, adult, streaming and gambling sites, and more besides.

Naturally, this can be quite frustrating, whether you are just visiting the country, or you’re there on business. Either way, many folks turn to a VPN to circumvent these restrictions. This isn’t ideal as VPNs are something of a legal grey area these days in the UAE, but that still doesn’t diminish their popularity.

How to choose the best VPN service for the UAE

The main consideration for picking a VPN here should be security. That means strong encryption, no DNS leaks and no traffic logs whatsoever. Anything that ups the ante in terms of security – and particularly avoiding VPN detection – should be considered a highly desirable bonus.

Next, look for straightforward clients for both desktop and mobile devices, and round-the-clock customer support for troubleshooting. As for VPN coverage, don’t expect many local servers, as they are very rare on the Arabian Peninsula – but obviously you’re looking for services which have some presence in that regard.

Now, let’s take a look at our five choices for the best VPN service for the UAE.

1. VyprVPN

Best all-round VPN

Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 70+ | IP addresses: 200,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 3-5

Impressive speeds
Free 3-day trial
Expensive monthly billing
No refunds

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With a server in Dubai and a couple in neighbouring Qatar and Saudi Arabia (even Bahrain could be usable), VyprVPN has solid coverage in this region. The provider handles its own infrastructure, meaning performance levels should be impressive. Plus there’s a multitude of supported platforms and devices, making VyprVPN one of the best options in that respect. 

Users will very much appreciate the company’s proprietary Chameleon technology which scrambles metadata to prevent deep packet inspection, VPN blocking, and throttling (note this is for Premium users only). The provider also offers its own zero-knowledge DNS, NAT Firewall and multiple protocols for encryption. The support team is also on hand to help 24/7 through email or live chat.

To round off its impressive package, VyprVPN offers a free 3-day trial. You better make the most out of it as the monthly billing is steep and there are no refunds available here. The Premium plan has all the best features (including Chameleon) and comes at an affordable rate if you take a yearly subscription. The packages available are:

2. NordVPN

Most secure VPN

Number of servers: 1033 | Server locations: 59 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 6

Double encryption
Great Windows client
Monthly plan is expensive
Free trial is hidden away

This Panama-based provider doesn’t have a local presence, but there is plenty of coverage to go around, including P2P optimised servers. There’s also support for multiple platforms and devices with native software for all the major operating systems, including an excellent Windows client. The apps are quite easy-to-use with just enough features to keep advanced users happy.

What makes NordVPN highly desirable is the security aspect of the service. This includes Double VPN technology that sends traffic through two separate VPN servers for extra security. And you also get Tor over VPN, plus the company has its own DNS servers, and offers encrypted chat. With such security comes a strict no log policy, making NordVPN a very clear security-first type of service. 

The provider does have a free trial, but it’s well hidden away on the website – head here to take advantage of the offer. The monthly plan is dear, but the two-year plan is an absolute bargain with a 30-day no-hassle money-back guarantee included. The packages available are:

3. PureVPN

Fastest VPN

Number of servers: 750+ | Server locations: 141 | IP addresses: 88,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 5

Speedy performance
Lengthy feature list
No free plan or trial
Costly monthly plan

PureVPN has a UAE-based server in Dubai, along with decent coverage in the surrounding countries. The self-managed VPN network delivers blazing speeds and you can set it up on all major platforms through native clients – there are also manual setup instructions for a bunch of routers, games consoles and more. The clients offer plenty of tweaks and options that don’t get in the way of the basic VPN experience if you aren’t in the mood for tinkering. 

On the security front, PureVPN employs 256-bit encryption and OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, SSTP, and IKEv2 protocols. A NAT firewall, intrusion detection and intrusion prevention systems are also part of the security package. No logs are kept concerning the sites you visit, the files you download or anything else.

You won’t get a free plan or trial with this provider, but there is a 7-day money-back guarantee which acts as a form of trial. There are three subscription plans at your disposal with a super-saving two-year deal being the obvious choice. The packages available are:

4. ExpressVPN

Best VPN for mobile

Number of servers: 1500+ | Server locations: 145 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 3

Quality desktop and mobile clients
Huge range of servers and locations
A bit pricey
Only three simultaneous connections

Although not physically present in the UAE, ExpressVPN is a great solution for bypassing restrictions. The service offers a speed-optimised network with tons of servers and locations, making it easy to find a reliable connection. 

There are apps for all kinds of devices, including iOS and Android phones, packed with smart features and intuitive interfaces. P2P support is also part of the package but you can only connect up to three devices per account, which may or may not be enough, depending on your needs. 

Security features include 256-bit encryption, the usual range of VPN protocols, and the provider’s own proprietary DNS protection. Customer support is available 24/7 via email and live chat. The service is adamant that it does not log any traffic data, DNS queries, or anything that could be used to identify users. 

ExpressVPN is among the pricier services out there, with the yearly plan providing the best savings. All three plans are covered by a 30-day no-hassle money-back guarantee which is certainly a boon. The packages available are:

5. HideMyAss

Best VPN for novice users

Number of servers: 720+ | Server locations: 320+ | IP addresses: 93,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 5

Simple client
Great local coverage
Somewhat expensive
No free plan or trial

HideMyAss has one high bandwidth server in the UAE (located in Dubai, naturally) and extensive overall coverage of the Middle East. Indeed, this provider (which is owned by security firm AVG) offers very impressive global coverage full-stop, with servers in over 190 countries.

There are native apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, with instructions for setting up the service on other devices and games consoles. Generally speaking, the clients are simple to use and well-designed, making them great for novices to the world of VPNs.

Seeing as this is an AVG offering, as you’d expect it performs well on the security front. OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP are the security protocols in place with 256-bit encryption. A slight weak point is the privacy policy which is a little complex and confusing – for more details on this see our full review.

There is no free plan or trial to test the service, which charges a bit more than the average VPN. On the positive side, there is a 30-day refund available, but it comes with some conditions – you can’t have used more than 10GB of data, or made more than 100 connections. Out of the three available subscriptions, the yearly plan offers the best savings. The packages available are: