Page update - Sep 23, 2022
Starting in July 2019, arriving in Dubai tourists can receive free SIM-cards by the local DU operator. Of course, the DU operator and the Dubai government claim that this is (we quote) "a compliment to tourists". But what is really their benefit? And what could be your losses? And the big question - should you use this SIM-card or is it better to buy yourself a full local SIM-card?
This page was updated in September 2022 and free SIM-cards are still being handed out. Apparently, the experiment was a success. Now such a SIM-card has the added value for tourists - to use the COVID19-DXB and Al-Hosn covid-safety apps.
Attention! Free SIM-cards may or not be available at some border crossing points. It's a matter of luck. Ask the officer at the migration control. If he(she) has then will give you the SIM. If not, then do not sorrow.
Warning! At the moment (September 2022) there is a special bonus with the free SIM-cards - free 1 GB of mobile Internet for 24 hours. But will this bonus be valid when you will arrive in Dubai? Unknown. DU has not issued a timeframe for this promotion.
Next, you need to insert the SIM-card into your phone. You will receive an SMS from the number 1220. You have to reply to this SMS with a message (also SMS) with the year of your birth. In reply you will receive a congratulatory SMS confirming successful activation. Well done. Everything works now.
This is a joint promotion of DU mobile operator and GDRFA (Dubai Residency and International Affairs Authority).
Tourists may receive free SIM-cards right at the immigration checkpoint. DU now provides 3,000 cards every day, but that's not enough for all arrivals. Mentally prepare yourself that you won't get a free SIM-card. However, there is no need to be sad about it. We will tell you why later.
There is a package of: 3 flexi-minutes and 20 megabytes of mobile traffic.
At this point, many people say, "Great! I'll call my mom, I'll tell her that I made a successful flight!"
No. In most cases you will not be able to call home, as these are local minutes, not international. Or rather, they are minutes to numbers in the UAE and a limited list in other countries. Although, try! There are chances your destination phone number is in the list. Maybe not.
"Then with these megabytes I'll call home on WhatsApp, Skype or other messenger!"
No. You won't be able to call on WhatsApp, as any VoIP calls in the UAE are illegal and blocked. The only three VoIP services work in the UAE properly - BOTIM, C`Me, HiU.
And they also say, "Great, I can call a cheaper cab so I don't have to overpay cab drivers on my way out of the airport."
It won't work. All cab drivers have the same fare from the airport - 25 dirhams for boarding and 1.72 per kilometer. There is no cheaper cab there. If you want cheaper, take the subway. Read our page "How to get from Dubai Airport to the city".
Theoretically, there are UBER and Careem, but their prices are almost the same as the official RTA cab. Read about all the prices in our review "Taxis in Dubai".
Find your flight
Naturally, you can add packages of traffic and minutes to this SIM-card. The detailed instructions are inside the pack with the SIM-card. But to do this, you first need to recharge your account.
To do this you need to find a DU office or any store that provides the DU Quick Recharge service. There are DU offices in all three terminals at Dubai Airport. There you need to say your phone number and recharge amount. After payment, they will give you a voucher with a code. The voucher has instructions on how to activate it.
Or find a payment machine. The principle of operation and interface of such machines in the UAE are no different from others. See the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen.
Then you choose one of the packages:
AED 49 - 30 local minutes + 2 gigabytes. Works for 28 days.
AED 99 - 30 local minutes + 6 gigabytes. Works for 28 days.
AED 139 - 30 local minutes + 10 gigabytes. Works for 28 days.
AED 189 - 30 local minutes + 20 gigabytes. Works for 28 days.
AED 299 - unlimited minutes + unlimited internet. Works for 10 days.
These rates are exactly the same as the DU Tourist Plan.
See the current exchange rates of dirham to the dollar, pound and euro on the page "Money in the UAE". All the Dubai airports terminals have currency exchange offices, although the rates there are a little worse than in the exchange offices in shopping malls. Read our review "How and where to exchange money in the UAE".
After you recharge the account you need to activate the package, the instructions are in the pack with the SIM-card. The procedure is rather complicated. We hope that DU will make it easier.
For those who need only a few minutes on vacation, the free SIM comes in handy. You need to recharge (preferably at the nearest DU office) and you can call home for 1.49 dirham per minute (US, UK and other European countries). It is not cheap at all, but roaming is even more expensive.
Attention! An important point! If you want to call home with a per-minute charge, then remember. You have to recharge with NO MORE than 49 dirhams.
If you recharge with 49 dirhams or more you will automatically get a package for 49 (2 GB). Accordingly, you will not get money on the account and will not be able to make calls.
Top up, for example, for 15 dirhams, to be enough for 10 minutes of talk time.
Attention! An important point! Immediately, in the DU office, dial the number to your home country to make sure that international calls work. If it does not work, immediately show the problem to an employee.
Find your hotel
Naturally, it's easier to buy a full DU Tourist Plan SIM-card. Come to the DU office, pay 49, 99, 139, 189, or 299 dirhams, show your passport to a DU employee, and get your SIM-card.
What could be easier?
At the moment (September 2022) it is better to buy an Etisalat SIM-card. As of January 1, 2022, they updated their Visitor Line travel plans. Now there are more gigabytes for the same price. Etisalat now has more bonuses, and the bonuses are more valuable.
At this moment we recommend Etisalat.
It is very profitable for DU to give out free SIM-cards. First, they take customers away from competitor Etisalat and their Visitor Line. Second, they urge tourists to use their SIM-cards rather than roaming.
It's easier for a tourist to keep the SIM-card as a souvenir or in case of emergency. Then go to the DU or Etisalat office and buy a Tourist Plan or Visitor Line.
ALSAADA is a tourist discount program by the authorities in Dubai. The DU operator gives this bonus for free. True, the ALSAADA program itself is free for all tourists. It turns out that you are given for free something that is already free.
There is a QR-code to download the ALSAADA application on the package. However, you can download this application without QR-code, just find it on Google Play or the App Store.
Read all the details about ALSAADA in our review "How to save on entertainment in Dubai".
- Validity period of free SIM is 30 days.
Have a nice time in Dubai or other Emirates, and read our interesting pages about the UAE (see the list of the pages below).
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