Cheap Calls from UAE - Local SIM

Page update - Sep 20, 2022

It's convenient to stay in touch while on vacation, and even more convenient not to think about the cost of calls home and not to limit yourself. We will talk about the cost of calls from the UAE on this page.

The prices and other information on this page were updated in September 2022. There are many changes in 2022. The Emirati operators DU and Etisalat have changed their rates for travel SIMs. Read the details below on this page.

This page is about calls. Read our page "Cheap Internet in the UAE" about how to use the Internet cheaply while vacationing in the UAE.

Calls by WhatsApp, Skype, etc

The bad news. In the UAE, VoIP calls are banned by law. Calling home on WhatsApp, Skype or other messenger will not work.

There are 9 VOIP services that work officially in the UAE. The list as of September 2022: BOTIM, GoChat Messenger, Google Meet, Voico, Skype Businesses, Microsoft Teams, HiU, C`Me, Zoom.

However, there is an important condition! The UAE operator tariff must support (not block) these applications. Each tariff has its own set of supported (not blocked) VOIP applications. For example, travel tariffs from the operator du officially support only Voico and BOTIM.

Warning. Blocking does not always work perfectly. There are cases when calls by messengers work. We sometimes get letters and comments from our readers about this. If you use roaming, the chances that the block will not work are much higher. Still, such cases are exceptions rather than the rule. But if you're lucky and it works, then don't pass up the opportunity - use it. For example, in 2021 two tourists have already written to us that VoIP calls work on Telegram.

Of course, there is a scheme using VPN, but it's too complicated for an ordinary tourist, and we won't tell you about it. In addition, using a VPN to bypass restrictions in the UAE is illegal, prohibited by Laws 5 (2012) and 12 (2016) "Cybercrime law". Fortunately, we haven't heard of any real penalties for bypassing the VoIP block using a VPN yet.

Let's talk about the traditional ways to call home.

Local SIM

There are two mobile operators competing in the UAE - Etisalat and DU (usually written in small letters, but for your convenience we will use large letters). Both companies are from the United Arab Emirates and do not let "outsiders" into their market.

Any tourist can buy their SIM-cards, but only prepaid plans.

There are also operators Virgin and Swyp, but these are not real operators, but just second brands DU and Etisalat. And they are extremely inconvenient for tourists.

Virgin and Swyp sign subscribers up for a monthly plan and forcibly charge their bank cards. It's almost unreal to unsubscribe, and people have to change their bank card. The Internet is full of angry reviews about Virgin and Swyp. Highly do not recommend it!

If you notice Etisalat's and DU's ads on the streets of cities in the UAE, you will read the phrases like "International calls from 36 fils per minute" or "Call home for 25 fils". Uninformed tourists look at such ads and run to buy a SIM-card. Naturally, in the end they are disappointed.

Etisalat and DU have very cheap rates for calls outside the UAE only for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Egypt and Malaysia. Most of the UAE's population is made up of guest workers from these countries; we talked about this in detail in the review "UAE Population". It is them that this advertising is aimed at. The US, UK and EU countries are not in the list for cheap calling.

It costs a minute to talk to the US or UK:

- Etisalat - AED 2.83 per minute;

- Du - AED 1.26 per minute (with *135*70# option) or 1.49 (without the option).

You can find the current exchange rates of the dirham on our page "The UAE dirham".

Find your flight

In any way, a local SIM is useful

You may use it to call and make a reservation at a restaurant, order a cab by phone or mobile app, call an insurance company, or buy a ticket for an attraction through the website. A prime example is the Burj Khalifa, where tickets are usually not available at the box office, it is recommended to buy a ticket through the website.

Also under current conditions, tourists are required to install the application COVID19 - DXB (for Dubai) or Al-Hosn (for Abu-Dhabi and other emirates). Usually this application works correctly from roaming, but sometimes it works poorly. In this case, a local SIM comes in handy.

DU Tourist Plan tariffs

DU has special tourist tariffs called the "Tourist Plan". How DU's sales offices and their logo look like, see in the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge it.

Tariff 1. AED 49. You get 30 minutes local calls, 2GB internet. This package is valid for 28 days.

Tariff 2. AED 99. You get 30 minutes local calls, 6GB internet. This package is valid for 28 days.

Tariff 3. AED 139. You get 30 minutes local calls, 10GB internet. The package is valid for 28 days.

Tariff 4. AED 189. You get 30 minutes local calls, 20GB internet. The package is valid for 28 days.

Unlimited tariff. AED 299. Unlimited calls and unlimited internet. Attention! The package is valid for 10 days.

In the past (until 2022) these plans were accompanied by discount promo codes for: Uber, Dollar Rent A Car, DU ENTERTAINER. But unfortunately, Uber discounts were canceled in 2022, and DU ENTERTAINER and Dollar Rent A Car were canceled back in 2019.

Now there are no bonuses with tourist plans by DU. Bad.

The price per minute of an international call is AED 1.26 for the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and most of the EU countries. The price is AED 1.89 for New Zealand, South Africa and part of the EU countries. Those prices are cheaper than prices by Etisalat.

And that's only when you enable the International Savings option. The option is activated by dialing *135*70#.

Low prices are valid on the short list of countries. AED 0.38 for India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh. AED 0.63 for Egypt, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh. AED 0.95 for Philippines, Iran, Afghanistan, Jordan, Israel & Palestine, Nigeria.

Etisalat Visitor Line tariffs

Etisalat also has special tourist tariffs called "Visitor Line". Look for Etisalat's sales office and their logo in the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge it. There are five plans within the Visitor Line, all work for 28 days except Visitor Line Unlimited works 10 days only:

1. For AED 49: 2 GB of mobile internet, 30 local minutes.

2. For AED 79: 4GB of mobile internet, 30 local minutes.

3. For AED 125: 6GB mobile internet, 120 local minutes, 5 hours WiFi.

4. For AED 200: 22.5 GB of mobile internet, 525 local minutes, 30 hours of WiFi.

5. Visitor Line Unlimited. For AED 319: Unlimited mobile Internet, 100 local minutes. Warning! This plan is valid for 10 days only!

Bonuses: 25% discount on 4 Careem cab rides and an activation code for the Smile by Etisalat coupon app. With the help of this application you can get back even 200 dirhams for the first purchase of tickets to water parks or amusement parks.

But the SIM by Etisalat is not suitable for calling home. The price per minute for the US, the UK, and Australia is AED 2.83. For Canada and most of the EU countries the price is AED 2.23. For New Zealand it is AED 3.1. It is very expensive.

There are few interesting options for calling. "Ultimate International Calling Plan" gives you 2000 international minutes for AED 150. "Ultimate World Calling Plan" gives you 2000 international minutes for AED 150. The lists of the countries in these two plans differ. In any case the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most of the EU countries are in the both lists.

If those options are interesting then you need to visit any Etisalat sales office to subscribe.

Find your hotel


This page is targeted for a wide audience in different countries. So we are unable to make a detailed review for roaming options in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and other English-speaking countries.

Find the roaming prices in the UAE of your current mobile operator. Compare these prices with the prices of local operators plans we told above. Then make a choice - do you need to buy a local SIM or roaming is better?

If you need a few minutes a day. We bet the price with UAE local SIM is cheaper. For example, Vodafone UK charges 60p per minute for outgoing calls and 36p per minute for incoming calls.

If you need a lot of minutes. We bet roaming is cheaper. For example, Vodafone UK charges 6 pounds a day for standard (as in home network) rate calls.

Important: Unexpected expenses

If you don't plan to use mobile Internet while on vacation, be sure to turn off the "mobile data" option on your device.

Roaming is turned on automatically by most of the operators. If you do not turn off the data transfer, your device will start downloading updates, weather forecasts, etc. from the Internet, which will instantly reduce your phone balance to zero.

Pay attention not to pay much!

Dialing rules

Mobile. To call from the UAE abroad, dial: +(country code) - (operator or city code) - (subscriber number). For example, +44 303 1237300.

Landline. To call from the UAE abroad, dial: 00 - (country code) - (operator or city code) - (subscriber number). For example, 00 44 303 1237300.

For details about the dialing rules we told in the review "UAE telephone codes".

Another useful information

Read our review "Cheap Internet in the UAE" to find out how to use the Internet cheaply in the UAE.

Read our review "How much money to take to the UAE" for other expenses apart from communication.

Have a good connection in the United Arab Emirates, and read our helpful pages about the country (see list of the pages below).


Tips for Tourists in the UAE


What to Take for the UAE

What You Should Not Do in the UAE

To the UAE with Kids

Sharks in the UAE

Weather in the UAE by Month

Holidays in the UAE

Are Unmarried Young Women
Allowed to Enter the UAE?

All-Inclusive in the UAE

Power Sockets & Voltage in the UAE

Hotels in the UAE with Own Beach


The UAE - Info, Facts, Figures

What Language is Spoken in the UAE

Population and Citizens of the UAE

History of the UAE

Flag of the UAE

Friday and Weekend in the UAE

Ramadan in the UAE

Sheikh Zayed - Father of Nation

Sheikhs of the UAE


What to Bring from the UAE

What You Can and Not Bring In the UAE

What You Can and Not Take Out the UAE

VAT Refund in the UAE

Shopping in the UAE - Why is Cheap

Date Fruits in the UAE

Camel Milk and Dairy Products

Bakhoor and Oud


Money in the UAE - Emirati Dirham

Currency Exchange in the UAE

How Much Money to Take to the UAE

Food Prices in the UAE

Tourist Taxes in the UAE

Alcohol in the UAE

Cigarettes and Smoking in the UAE

Vape and iQos in the UAE


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Taxi in the UAE - Fares and Guide

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Cheap Calls from the UAE

Free SIM-card in Dubai

UAE Phone Codes




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