How to Set Up a Mobile Phone in Dubai |

How to Set Up a Mobile Phone in Dubai

Your guide to telecom providers in Dubai and how to get started when you arrive in the country

Posted on

12 March 2018

Last updated on 19 January 2020
How to Set Up a Mobile Phone in Dubai

So you just arrived in Dubai and need to set up your phone so that you can firstly communicate with people in Dubai, but also stay in touch with your loved ones from back home. But where to begin?

Different strokes for different folks: service providers in Dubai

There are three service providers in the UAE from which you can choose: Du, Etisalat and Virgin Mobile. Du and Etisalat provide mobile, landline, Internet and television plans while Virgin only offers mobile and Internet packages.

You can opt for a pre- or post-paid plan from both Du and Etisalat depending on what your needs are. Virgin Mobile however only have post-paid plans but they are easy to customise according to your requirements which is something Du and Etisalat doesn’t offer.

Getting set-up once you arrive in the UAE

When you arrive at any of the international airports in Dubai, you might find it beneficial to stop by a Du or Etisalat store to buy a tourist sim card. These sim cards are a quick and easy way help to get you get connected once you’ve arrived until you are able to get a pre-paid or post-paid number.

They are usually valid for 60 days although you can be further extended. If you choose not to extend the use of the number, it is recycled. The tourist sim card will enable you to buy data and calling minutes so that you are able to use your phone without having to use the roaming plan from your home country.

Finding a more permanent option

Once you have received your residency visa you are able to get a permanent number in Dubai. Before going to one of the network providers in Dubai we recommend first deciding what you need: will pre-paid or post-pay best suit your needs? If you decide to go with post-paid, do you require local calling minutes, international calling limits, SMSs, data? And how much of each will you require?

The employees at both Du and Etisalat are salespeople at the end of the day and will always push you to apply for a bigger package, if not a combo package. Always remember that it is easier (and cheaper) to upgrade to a bigger package than to downgrade to a smaller package.

Using Voice Over IP (VoIP) services

The UAE has rather strict rules when it comes to internet calling so don’t be surprised if services such as Whatsapp calling, Skype, Facetime and Viber doesn’t work. Most, if not all of the VoIP services in the UAE have been blocked for security reasons as well as to prevent profit loss through these services. Expats have found ways around this, such as using a VPN services, but this is not recommended as you will receive a hefty fine and could possibly even face jail time if you are caught.

It is also important to note when buying any Apple products in the UAE that Facetime isn’t something that you can simply download from another country’s app store. The firmware of the devices has been hardcoded to block Facetime from the device, meaning that it cannot be installed on the device. Again, there are ways to bypass this, but we wouldn’t recommend it as it will not only void your warranty but have previously caused a number of problems to people who tried it.

Alternatives for calling home?

Du and Etisalat have an alternative option for residents who want a cheaper way to call back home. You can download either BOTIM or C’Me to make unlimited voice and video calls abroad. What is the catch you might ask? The person who you are calling will also require the application and there is a monthly subscription charge.