Where to find a SIM card at Dubai airport, with map for each terminal
To help travellers arriving at Dubai locate a prepaid SIM card, I put this guide together. It can be confusing, particularly if you’re new to the UAE, and this guide is intended to make buying a SIM card a little easier to navigate.
There are two shops at each terminal of Dubai Airport (DXB), representing each of the major phone carriers:
|Shop||Location||SIM Cards Available|
Open 24 hours
Open 24 hours
Open for every flight
All arriving tourists currently get a free SIM card, provided by du and distributed at passport control. It includes 20MB of data and 3 minutes of phone calls. The free SIM of course can be topped up with a minimum amount of 55 AED after the introductory amounts are used.
There are 2 mobile phone networks in Dubai and both have shops for their primary brands at Dubai Airport, Terminals 1, 2, and 3. Tourist SIM cards are available for each of these brands:
- Etisalat Visitor Line, 700mb and 40 mins calls for 100 AED with 90 days validity (other mixes of calls and data available for this price)1
- du, 500mb and 20 mins for 55 AED with 7 day validity. This can be bought as a top-up package for the free SIM card2.
Savings can be made by purchasing a regular prepaid SIM card rather than the tourist plans. These are not always available and staff may offer the tourist prepaid SIM card instead.
Other brands are available to be purchased outside the airport. These may offer better value for people planning to live in Dubai for a while. The brands are:
- Virgin Mobile, operated on the du network
- Swyp, operated on the Etisalat network
I found plans to be very similarly priced to the bigger brands, and not worth the hassle for short visits to Dubai.
Which SIM cards are available at Dubai Airport?
SIM cards from the 2 major providers, Etisalat and du, are available at the airport. Only the tourist/visitor options may be available, though some of the other prepaid plans can offer better value if available. Here are the plans I like:
Great value for data: du Tourist Plan, 110 AED
The du tourist plan includes:
- 3.5GB of data
- 50 minutes of calls
- 14 days validity
This plan can be applied to the free tourist SIM card.
For more even more data, du offer on their local prepaid plans:
- 5GB for 210 AED (+tax) per month, no calls included
- 25GB for 525 AED (+tax) per month, no calls included
Etisalat also has a competing data option available on their local prepaid plans:
- 14GB for 325 AED (+tax) per month but billed as 75 AED (+tax) per week. Includes 175 minutes of calls.
Great for calls: Etisalat Waselgo Large, 50 AED (+tax) per month
This is a local prepaid plan and may not be available to everyone at the airport. If this one is unavailable, du’s Tourist Plan is better value for calls.
For local calls, the Waselgo Large includes 100 minutes. Unlike Etisalat’s visitor plan, buying this many minutes does not sacrifice data.
For international calls, customers on a Waselgo plan may be able to opt-in to discount international calls to select countries (such as Nepal, India, Pakistan, China). Calls to other destinations are priced higher.
Great for staying longer: try a post-paid plan, from 100 AED (+tax) per month
For those staying in Dubai longer than a tourist would, plans in the UAE are available with no commitment or a 12 month commitment.
Cheapest post paid plan is Etisalat Freedom Plan 100 which includes 2GB of data and 200 minutes per month for 100 AED (+tax), on a 12 month commitment. du offers slightly better value of 4GB for 125 AED (+tax).
For stays in the UAE longer than 12 months, mobile phone plans in the UAE for customers who already have a handset are based on a 12 month commitment. Some examples of the value are:
- Etisalat Freedom 175, including 10GB data and 500 mins for 175 AED (+tax) per month
- du Power Plan 200, including 26GB data and 800 mins for 200 AED (+tax) per month
- Virgin Mobile, from 1GB data and 50 mins of calls and 79 AED (+tax) per month3
For stays in the UAE of less than 12 months, post paid plans without commitment are available from Etisalat for 25 AED (+tax) more than their regular prices.
Which prepaid SIM card for coverage?
Mobile phone networks cover most of the UAE, including the highways and even the desert. Both providers offer similar coverage, though Etisalat is slightly better.
Is it better to buy a SIM card in Dubai city or at the airport?
I found the best prepaid options for short term visitors to Dubai to be those available at the airport. If planning to live in Dubai for 6 months or more, there is another option available though it isn’t much saving over the options you can sign up for at the airport.
Which SIM cards are better value if bought in the city?
Virgin mobile SIM cards are only available in Dubai city. An order placed on line will get a SIM card delivered promptly to the specified address. There is also a Virgin Megastore at the Mall of The Emirates.
If the better value plans listed above for Etisalat and du are not available at the airport, they should be available at shops and re-sellers throughout the city.
Do I need ID to buy a SIM card at Dubai Airport?
Yes, identification is required to purchase a SIM card at Dubai Airport, and anywhere else in the UAE. Showing a valid visa may also be required.
For eligible tourists (as determined by your passport/visa), a free SIM card is provided at passport control as you enter Dubai.
Is Wi-Fi available at Dubai Airport?
Yes, Wi-FI is available at Dubai Airport. Connect to
DXB Free WiFi and then tap Get online now on the page that opens. Some apps/websites may be slow to access; try the Wi-Fi provided at cafes and restaurants for a faster service.
Getting from the airport to the city to buy a SIM card
A Virgin Mobile SIM card can be bought at the Mall of the Emirates. The Dubai Metro red line has stops at the airport and at the Mall of the Emirates.
Dubai Metro has Wi-Fi, but I believe it needs a SIM card to use.
Taxis in Dubai do not have Wi-Fi.
Traffic can significantly slow down how long it takes to get to accommodation from the airport. For staying connected during the taxi ride, I recommend finding a SIM card at the airport.
Uber, Careem, and ride-share
Uber and Careem (the local ride-share company) pick up outside the terminal building. The pick up was the carpark at one stage, though I’ve heard it’s since changed.
If relying on the airport Wi-Fi, I usually don’t like to use ride-share apps. If I need to contact the driver in the carpark (to find out where the car is), I want a reliable data connection - airport Wi-Fi too often does not extend out to the Uber pick up.
Can I roam with my Dubai SIM card to another country
Roaming data packs are available in some countries starting at 35 AED with both du and Etisalat. Both providers offer weekly and monthly add on packs for better value while roaming. Etisalat offers a special 14 day Umrah and Hajj pack.
Most neighbouring countries appear to be supported by both Etisalat and du (I’ve never roamed with a Dubai SIM card before).
At 35 AED (+tax) per day, or weekly/monthly plans it looks like you can roam in the likes of Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon. Further afield, roaming at this price is also available in Australia, the UK, US, Canada, France and Switzerland for example.
Written by Chris who travels frequently for work and understands what it can be like to arrive somewhere new and unfamiliar.
I wrote Landing Last Minute to help the hurried traveler get necessary information about any destination.