What’s the deal with the UAE and VPNs? Here’s why VPN usage is so high in the United Arab Emirates

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Lots of people everywhere are using VPNs; some more than others. VPN usage is very prominent in China ever since the government digitized their Great Wall into a Great Firewall. A lot of content is either heavily monitored or outright banned in China. Hence why China ranks 177 out of 180 countries on the 2019 World Press Index.

The UAE or the United Arab Emirates is not much better. VPN usage jumped 165% last year, and the UAE saw itself enter the list of top ten countries accessing content via VPNs. Ranking 133 on the 2019 World Press Index, the government of the United Arab Emirates has made Internet usage for its people a wee bit troublesome, to say the least. And that’s why people are using VPNs in the UAE at an increasing rate every year. Let’s delve a bit into why this is.

Cyber Crimes Law

The United Arab Emirates’ Cyber Crime Law, has gotten laxer since its’ initial conception, with VPN usage in its entirety no longer being banned, but it’s still extremely restrictive. Breaking the rules of this law could get you fined or even imprisoned. Here are a few of the things banned that citizens are taking the risk of accessing via a VPN.

Skype, Whatsapp, Snapchat and FaceTime: No international VoIP

There are only two state-sanctioned VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services in the UAE, and Skype isn’t one of them. If it’s VoIP you need, then Du and Etisalat are what you need to use. Services like Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and FaceTime on Apple devices are workarounds that are not allowed in the UAE.

The problem with Du and Etisalat is that while there are options for voice and video call services, they are expensive and the market is all but cornered thanks to the ban of services like Skype and Whatsapp. There have been talk of Microsoft and Apple getting the government of the UAE to lift the ban on Skype and FaceTime, but nothing concrete so far.

Quite a number of people might not have the money to pay for the premium services of Du and Etisalat. Or maybe they do, and simply don’t want to pay the fee because they feel the ban is unfair.

This ban also heavily affects businesses of any level, especially smaller businesses. Imagine trying to do business with international partners but not being able to set up a Skype call with them.

Whatever the reason, you can bet that access to VoIP services like Skype is one of the major reasons people in the UAE use VPNs.

American Netflix

Content in the UAE is heavily-restricted based on a number of factors and this leaves the version of Netflix available in the UAE more lacking in content that people would like. As we move further and further into the Digital Age, streaming services are the go-to choice for watching TV shows and movies. Not being able to access the full extent of Netflix’s library is sure to be a letdown. With a VPN, UAE citizens can access the American version of Netflix and watch shows and movies that aren’t allowed in the UAE.

Getting around the UAE’s content restrictions

Probably the biggest reason people use VPNs in the UAE is to get around the heavy restrictions of content. The UAE is a religious state, and content is banned if the government views said content as not being in-line with the beliefs of their country. Content is banned in the UAE includes:

  • Gambling (No FullTilt Poker for you)
  • Drugs and alcohol-related content
  • Violence
  • Dating
  • Pornography or sexual content (Sex outside of marriage is a huge no no)
  • Nudity
  • LGBT content
  • Anything viewed as anti-Muslim
  • Anything that is viewed as portraying the UAE or its’ government in a bad light

If you’re a gamer and live in the UAE, I feel for you. Gamers in the UAE do not have access to many recent Triple AAA games due to their mature content. Heck, there is even talk of getting Fortnite and PUBG banned.

At the end of the day, the world is a mature place, which means blocking your citizens’ access to a lot of content indefinitely. The government of the UAE holds all the power in this discussion, so they honestly could ban whatever they want, and the people of the UAE wouldn’t really be able to do anything about it.

The two biggest reasons people use VPNs is to access restricted content and maintain anonymity online. In other words, using a VPN is almost necessary for people in the UAE.

Best VPNs to use in the UAE

Using a VPN in the UAE is not inherently illegal. Although accessing restricted content is the biggest reason people use UAEs, giving themselves more protection online is not far behind in second place. So using a VPN to keep your data safe is perfectly fine in the UAE.

However, using a VPN for other purposes in the UAE can get you into a heap of trouble. If the government views what you are doing is criminal or that you’re hiding criminal activity, then you are toast. We’re talking jail time or and a fine. But since cyber life in the UAE is pretty terrible, it’s a risk that a lot of people are willing to take.

That being said, you can at least minimize the risk you take by using the best possible VPN that you can get your hands on. People in America can use free VPNs, but you’d have to have a prison wish if you tried this in the UAE. Say goodbye to your freedom if you use a VPN prone to data leaks.

If you plan on using a VPN in the UAE, DO NOT CUT CORNERS WHATSOEVER. Do you want to save a buck or save your life/freedom? Only use top of the line VPN services when you’re in the UAE. Here are our suggestions:

ExpressVPN

NordVPN

PrivateVPN

IPVanish

VyprVPN

As far as VPNs in the UAE goes, we find that these are your five best options. Take no chances. Enjoy browsing an Internet not flooded with access denied gates, and stay safe online!

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