The best VPN for the UAE

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 one of the best VPNs 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: 1410 | Server locations: 61 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 6

Double encryption
Plentiful server coverage
Monthly plan is expensive
Session logging policy is unclear

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 a solid 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 Onion over VPN, plus the company has its own DNS servers, and offers encrypted chat. With such security comes a 'no log' policy, but there are slight question marks over this, as the provider doesn’t make it clear whether there is any session logging or not.

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. 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:

4. Ivacy

Most affordable VPN

Number of servers: 250+ | Server locations: 100+ | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5

Fast performance
Low-cost 2-year plan
Poor mobile clients
Refund restrictions

Ivacy has multiple servers available for UAE residents or visitors to the country, as well as servers in neighbouring Saudi Arabia. This VPN delivered consistent performance in our testing that nearly matched our usual (non-VPN) speeds, particularly with long distance connections, which is always good to see.

The desktop clients are both beginner-friendly and have a decent set of advanced options for more tech-savvy users. The same cannot be said for the mobile apps, which suffer from being overly basic and rarely updated. Ivacy offers 256-bit encryption, all the usual protocol support, as well as options such as a kill switch, and split tunneling so you can decide which apps are covered by the VPN’s protection.

Ivacy has a seven-day refund policy but it has some restrictions: you can’t get a refund if you paid with Bitcoin or Paymentwall, or if you have used more than 7GB of data, or connected more than 30 times.

All in all, this is a nicely affordable service with three subscription plans on offer, but it’s the two-year plan which is the star of the show, offering a rarely seen level of value-for-money. The packages available are:

5. HideMyAss

Best VPN for novice users

Number of servers: 840+ | Server locations: 280+ | IP addresses: 93,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 5

Simple client
Great local coverage
Somewhat expensive
Some session logging

HideMyAss has two high bandwidth servers 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: