With daily flights from major Australian cities on both Qantas partner Emirates to Dubai and Etihad Airways to Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates is a popular destination for Australian travellers – but current roaming charges from Optus, Telstra and Vodafone make calls and tests incredibly costly.
Local mobile carriers Etisalat and Du have pre-paid SIM cards tailored specifically for short-term visitors to the UAE, with Du’s Tourist Plan emerging as the best overall package for stays of up to 10 days – and despite the name, it suits business travellers too.
Du Tourist Plan: getting connected
After passing through baggage claim and Customs as you arrive in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, look for Du-branded mobile phone outlets in the public arrivals hall just before stepping outside the terminal.
Here, you can purchase a Tourist Plan SIM card for 75AED (A$28.80) by flashing your Australian passport and paying in cash (Emirati dirhams/AED) or with your Australian credit card. We should highlight that returning customers can’t use Australian cards for topping-up an existing pre-paid account via the Du website, but as we’ve tried and tested, Australian credit cards can be used in person at Du outlets to buy recharge vouchers and indeed new SIM cards.
Du Tourist Plan: what you get
To begin with, your starter pack includes 30 minutes of voice calls – either to the UAE or 100 other countries, including Australia – plus 500MB of data to use within 10 days of activating your SIM, which is enough to keep most business travellers going for their visit.
Other features like SMS can be added on by purchasing a recharge card with a mere 20AED (A$7.70) voucher netting 111 SMS messages sent to UAE mobiles or 33 texts back home to Australia under the ‘More Time’ recharge option, with no set expiry date. Heavy data users can also boost their download allowance with an extra 1GB setting you back 100AED (A$38.40), 5GB for 200AED (A$76.80) or 10GB for 300AED (A$115.10) which is valid for up to 30 days.
Du Tourist Plan: becoming a regular visitor.
Being a traveller-oriented SIM, your account and any inclusions purchased are automatically closed down 60 days after activation, but can be extended by a further 90 days (to total 150 days) by paying a ‘renewal fee’ of just 5AED (A$1.92), preserving any inclusions that haven’t expired on their own.
If you’ll be returning to the UAE and wish to keep the same local number – a great idea if you’ll be making business contacts in the region – you can also migrate onto Du’s (pre-paid) Pay As You Go option at no charge where using your account just once every 12 months keeps the number active.
Pay As You Go customers can continue to purchase the same recharge cards at the same prices, such as 1GB of data for 100AED, but by starting with the Tourist Plan you’ll have that handy chunk of calls and data and can go from there.