The laws in the UAE concerning online activity are incredibly strict.  Censorship means you may not be able to access websites you’re used to using.  People have been fined and arrested for posting things on social media that criticized the government and even be critical of non-residents.

Popular apps like Skype, FaceTime, and WhatApps are banned.  Also censored are websites that involve anti-religious or anti-Muslin viewpoints, gambling, pornography, or critical of the government or the ruling class.  Even sites like Wikipedia have been forbidden.

VPNs are considering illegal under the UAE’s laws, but many visitors use them without reservation.  If you want to protect your identity, your data, and visit your favorite websites and streaming channels, you may want to consider using a VPN anyway.

How VPNs Work

A VPN network creates a private tunnel between your device and a remote server.  Any outgoing or incoming data is encrypted and can avoid detection.  When connected to a server in the U.S. or U.K, for example, it will appear as if you were connecting to a site from that country rather than in the UAE.  This would give you access to sites that would be banned or censored by the UAE authorities.

UAE Censorship: What to Know Before You Visit

VPNs hide your identity and replace your IP address with one originating at the VPN server.

Streaming Video

Let’s say you want to watch video on Netflix.  The choices you can see in much of the Middle East is extremely limited.  By using a VPN, your identity is private. Your connection will appear to be originating in a country other than the UAE.  By choosing a private connection to a server in the U.S. or U.K., the streaming service would see only the incoming connection from an in-country server and allow you to access the library of content you’re used to seeing.

UAE Censorship: What to Know Before You Visit

Finding A VPN To Use In The UAE

The UAE’s crackdown on online content includes the use of VPNs.  Many VPN websites are inaccessible from the UAE as well and you likely won’t be able to download one once you are in-country.

UAE Censorship: What to Know Before You Visit

You will need strong security tools.  Using a VPN with weak security protocols open you up to the possibility of heavy fines.  It’s crucial that you use a VPN that can avoid detection. If you want to use a VPN in the UAE, you’ll need to choose one that will work.  You will want to focus on VPNs that can bypass censorship measures.  This means high-level encryption, stealth mode, no traffic logs, DNS leak protection, and private connections along with a diverse selection of servers.

Consider A VPN With A Free Trial Period

You may also want to choose a VPN that offers a free trial period.  Since the UAE authorities block many VPNs, what works today may not work there tomorrow.  There is no real way to know what will work when you need it except to try it when you are there.  If you do a free trial and it does become blocked, at least it won’t cost you.