Abu Dhabi Tourist SIMs and UAE eSIMs explained
Are you planning on visiting Abu Dhabi soon? We’re guessing you will want to stay connected during your stay and will need an Abu Dhabi tourist SIM card!
As well as being a rather photogenic city, it’s fairly necessary to have internet when travelling these days. From retrieving travel booking details to ordering taxis and meals while you’re on the go – trust us, there’s an app for everything in the UAE!
Although you’ll get access to a Wi-Fi network in most places in Abu Dhabi, what if you’re on the go? That’s when you’ll need a travel SIM in Abu Dhabi to make calls, use social media, or use Maps to navigate the city or call a driver.
For your ease and convenience, we have put together everything you need to know about getting a SIM card in Abu Dhabi for tourists and eSIM options you can arrange before your arrival.
Since we first wrote this article the new Abu Dhabi International Airport has opened! Our team are travelling through the airport this month so we’ll update you soon on exactly where to find the mobile phone operator counters and if we see any better airport deals than what we describe below.
Mobile Operators in the UAE
Getting an Abu Dhabi tourist SIM is a pretty straightforward process. However, there are multiple mobile operators in the UAE, so it gets somewhat confusing for tourists to decide which mobile network SIM they should use based on the packages offered.
However, there’s no need to worry, as we have simplified everything for you! Below, you will find a list of mobile operators in the UAE with information about purchasing their SIM and which operator is the most suitable for you.
Any Sim/eSim purchased for Abu Dhabi works in Dubai and all of the emirates of the UAE.
1. Du SIM Card in Abu Dhabi for Tourists
Du is a mobile operator in UAE, launched in 2007. Du offers tourists arriving at DXB – Dubai International Airport a free SIM card, but unfortunately, the same offer has not been extended to arrivals at AUH airport.
That said, the Du tourist SIM offer only includes 1GB of data preloaded and only lasts 24 hours – great for stopover passengers – not so great if you’ll be in Abu Dhabi a little bit longer.
You can purchase a Du pre-paid SIM card from its franchise store across the city. Buying the SIM without any package will cost around AED 10; however, if you activate a bundle package (starting from AED 49), you’ll get the SIM for free. You’ll need your passport to get started.
Presently, these are the best Tourist SIM options from Du:
- 2GB valid for 28 days with 30 flexi minutes – AED 49 ($13.35 USD)
- 6GB valid for 28 days with 30 flexi minutes, unlimited internet calls – AED 99 ($27 USD)
- 10GB valid for 28 days with 30 flexi minutes, unlimited internet calls – AED 139 ($37.85 USD)
- 20GB valid for 28 days with 30 flexi minutes, unlimited internet calls – AED 189 ($51.46 USD)
- Online special – unlimited data for 7 days + exclusive attraction discounts – AED 199 ($54.20)
NB – There is now a Du shop at the new international airport! We will report back, but believe you still get the same pricing/deals we’ve mentioned here – TBC on the free Tourist SIM!
2. Etisalat Abu Dhabi Tourist SIM
Etisalat is the largest and oldest mobile operator in the UAE and is one of the best SIM cards for Abu Dhabi.
When you land, you can get an Etisalat SIM from the kiosk at Abu Dhabi airport. There are plenty of packages available – these do frequently change, so apologies if the exact deal is not on offer when you arrive in Abu Dhabi; we try to update our Abu Dhabi tourist guides regularly!
- If you’re only here for less than a day and you’re a light internet user – you can grab a FREE 1GB/24 hr validity Etislat eSim – yup, the same deal as Du, but it doesn’t seem to be openly advertised.
- The cheapest paid Visitor Line gives you 2GB of data + 30 flexi minutes, valid for 28 days for AED 49 ($13.30 USD).
- Visitor Line + gives you 4GB of data + 30 flexi minutes valid for 28 days for AED 79 ($21.50 USD)
- Visitor Line Premium gives you 8GB of data + 120 flexi minutes valid for 28 days for AED 125 ($34 USD)
- If you’re a heavy online user and caller, go with Visitor Line Premium + 22.5GB of data + 525 flexi minutes valid for 28 days for AED 200 ($54.50 USD), or
- Unlimited 7 Days – includes 100 flexi minutes for 200 AED ($54.50 USD)
Visitor Line packages are valid for the length of your Visa. Therefore, if you plan on staying in Abu Dhabi long term or change Visa type, you will need to switch to Etisalat’s other pre-paid and post-paid packages.
3. Virgin Mobile Travel SIM in Abu Dhabi
Virgin Mobile is a newer mobile operator in UAE by the Virgin Mobile brand (though it is a fully owned subsidiary of Du and uses the same network). It offers a good range of tourist SIM cards with different packages to people visiting Abu Dhabi for business or vacations.
You can get the SIM from the airport as soon as you land; however, the tourist SIM is for one-time use. This means you can use it for as long as your package lasts and won’t be able to renew it.
Virgin Mobile offers four packages for its Abu Dhabi tourist SIM, which also include 30 local minutes and 20 international minutes.
- A 7-day package costs AED 150 with 21GB of data (capped at 3GB per day)
- A 10-day package costs AED 200 with 40GB of data (capped at 4GB per day)
- A 15-day package costs AED 300 with unlimited data
- A 30-day package costs AED 500 with unlimited data
SIMs Sold by Third-Party Companies
If you see online tour operators selling you a SIM card, it will be based on services provided by one of the above three networks.
All should have reliable coverage in metropolitan areas. Beyond that, in the mountains and the desert, it’s time to switch off and get yourself an offline map, as the network will be patchy or non-existent no matter whose network you use (they are all ultimately government-owned and share much of their infrastructure).
As international travellers, we’ve become big fans of using Airalo eSIMs whenever possible. The eSIM they sell for the UAE is marketed as “Burj Mobile” (digging beneath the cover, we believe it runs on the Etisalat network so you’ll have no problem with connectivity).
There are currently three different Burj Mobile packages
- 1GB valid for 7 Days for $8.50 USD (AED 32)
- 3GB valid for 30 days for $22.50 USD (AED 82.50)
- 5GB valid for 30 days for $35 USD (AED 128.50)
NB these are all for data only; if you think you’ll need to make phone calls too, you’re better waiting until arrival and getting a local Abu Dhabi SIM with a phone number attached!
Using Airalo is super easy. Once you purchase online, you must press activate and change any existing eSIMs on your phone to the new eSIM. The clock starts ticking as soon as you land and connect to the network in the UAE.
If you are travelling more widely around the Middle East and just popping into Abu Dhabi briefly, you may also want to look at Airalo’s Middle East option, Menalink, with packages as follows:
- 1GB valid for 7 Days for $15 USD
- 2GB valid for 15 days for $28 USD
- 3GB valid for 30 days for $39 USD
KitMyTrip – Via GetYourGuide
This is another good option only if YOU ARRIVE INTO DXB as this is where you collect your physical SIM from. Presently, it doesn’t seem to extend to AUH, SHJ, or DWC arrivals.
Do read the fine print if pre-packaged SIM bundles will work for you, only 1 per passport and users must be over 18, so you can’t hand one out to each of the kids. In this instance, families should consider pocket wifi options.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Abu Dhabi Tourist Sims
The free tourist SIM is a free SIM card Du Telecommunications offers to tourists arriving in Dubai. This SIM card can be picked up from the immigration counter at Dubai DXB airport and is activated using your passport details. It contains 1GB of free local data valid for 24 hours. Once the time is over, you can recharge your SIM with the various tourist packages offered by Du.
We recommend getting a SIM card from the airport on arrival in Abu Dhabi. The reason? It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s fast.
Plus, multiple SIM card sellers at the airport make buying it straightforward. You must provide your passport details, go through the various packages, and get the SIM.
On the other hand, you can also pre-order your SIM card. You have to contact the mobile operator, select a package, and provide your home address in your country. The mobile operator will then mail the SIM card to your address.
However, we won’t recommend this option, as it takes too long, plus you never know when you will receive the SIM via mail. Also, what if it gets lost on the way? And this method isn’t suitable if you make a sudden plan to visit Abu Dhabi.
eSIM’s, on the other hand, where you don’t need a physical SIM card to be delivered, could be your easiest option these days. Simply activate it as soon as you land, and you’re instantly connected; there is no need to queue at a counter when you get to AUH.
Based on the offers and packages by Du, Etisalat, and Virgin Mobile, the best SIM card for Abu Dhabi is Du. You can quickly insert it into your mobile and get connected almost instantly.
Etisalat is also a good option, but it is a bit more expensive, and its Visitors Line’s validity depends on your visa expiration. However, it is a good option if you’re in Abu Dhabi for limited days.
Those wanting convenience and a compatible device should try the Airalo eSIM – it’s not the cheapest option but super easy for those who only need a little bit of data an instant connectivity when they land.
Generally speaking, your hotel and places like shopping malls and restaurants will have free wifi, though more than likely you’ll need to sign up via your social profile or email to access it. We would still recommend the convenience of having your own data over-relying on public wifi if you’re someone who likes to remain connected when you travel.
Note that the very recent introduction of Hala Wifi will put Wi-Fi connectivity into city buses and public parks, so there will be a growing range of options for accessing Wi-Fi.
Before you go… Important things to consider when planning a trip to Abu Dhabi
- Pop into our essential planning information page; it includes everything you need to know about getting around Abu Dhabi, a handy guide on what to pack and top tips for first-timers on the dos and don’ts, laws, and customs in the UAE.
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!
- Discover the best places to stay in Abu Dhabi, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our hotel or tour recommendation links.Abu Dhabi Travel Planner
We are an affilaite of Airalo and earn a commission on any activated eSim plans.