Skype UAE

Hordes of jet-setters, international students, and expats use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services like Skype every day to keep in touch with their friends and family back home. However, in some countries, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Skype and similar services are blocked entirely. In fact, in the UAE, the only permitted VoIP services are Botim and C’Me. The problem is that both services come with high monthly fees.

There is a workaround, however.

By connecting to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), you can mask your IP address, making it appear that your internet traffic originates in a different country. This allows you to download software and visit websites that are ordinarily inaccessible from within the UAE. VPNs also encrypt your data, preventing it from being read by third parties like your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

In this post, we’ll explain why the UAE blocks Skype and how you can bypass these restrictions using a VPN. We’ll also recommend the best VPNs for the UAE and the risks associated with free VPN services in the UAE.

How to unblock Skype in the UAE

It’s actually fairly simple to unblock Skype with a VPN, even from countries like the UAE, Qatar, Libya, and Kuwait, where the service is supposedly inaccessible. Just follow the steps below:

  1. First, use a suitable service. Many VPNs don’t work in the UAE, so choosing the right one is vital. (We recommend ExpressVPN.)
  2. Download and install the VPN software. Several different versions will be available, so make sure you install the right one for your device.
  3. Connect to a server in a country that doesn’t block Skype.
  4. Wait until you’re connected. Now, download Skype. Once it’s installed, you should be able to make and receive calls without any problems.

UNBLOCK SKYPE FREE: If you’re only in the UAE for a short time (for instance, if you’re on vacation) and don’t want to commit to a long-term subscription, you can use ExpressVPN’s 30-day trial to unblock Skype for free. You will be required to pay upfront, but can cancel at any time during this period for a full refund.

Best VPNs for unblocking Skype

While there are hundreds of VPN services available, only a handful work reliably inside the UAE. To find the best VPNs for unblocking Skype in the United Arab Emirates, we looked for services which met the criteria below:

  • Is capable of bypassing the UAE’s internet restrictions
  • Has speeds fast enough for high-definition streaming and VoIP calls
  • Offers numerous servers in a wide selection of different locations
  • Uses strong encryption and includes other advanced security features
  • Does not log any information which could identify you

Below, you’ll find our list of the best VPNs for the UAE:

1. ExpressVPN

Express VPNAug 2019

ExpressVPN provides access to more than 2,000 servers throughout 94 different countries. Further, it’s fast enough to stream HD video fluidly, with no noticeable buffering. This means that as well as unblocking and streaming from popular platforms like Netflix and BBC iPlayer, ExpressVPN allows you to have lengthy, uninterrupted Skype conversations.

Your internet traffic is kept private using a combination of 256-bit encryption, perfect forward secrecy, a kill switch (in the desktop apps), and protection against WebRTC and DNS leaks. ExpressVPN doesn’t log any personally identifiable information, just the email address you registered with. As such, if you use a throwaway email address and pay with Bitcoin, you can browse completely anonymously. Customer support is available 24/7 via live chat in case you encounter any issues.

This service offers apps for all the most popular operating systems (Windows, Linux, MacOS, Android, and iOS). It can be manually installed on wireless routers in a few minutes with ExpressVPN’s custom router firmware.

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Read our full review of ExpressVPN.

2. NordVPN

Few other services can match NordVPN in terms of network size. Users can choose servers designed for activities like streaming, file-sharing, and gaming, or choose one of its more than 5,000 servers (across 62 countries) directly. This means you’ll always have a nearby server, increasing the chance of a low-latency connection, and ensuring your Skype video calls are crystal clear and delay-free.

NordVPN offers more security options than many of its rivals. In addition to its 256-bit encryption, application-specific kill switch, and DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak protection, it offers automatic ad-blocking, malware-scanning, dual VPN functionality, and even the ability to connect to Tor over a VPN. NordVPN does not log any personally identifiable information, so you can rest assured your activities will remain private at all times.

This VPN has apps for Android, iOS, Windows, and MacOS systems. It can also be installed on Linux-based platforms and supported network routers, although manual configuration is required.

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Read our full review of NordVPN.

3. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN might not have the largest server network, with just 76 globally, but it does provide higher speeds than most of its competitors. Since Skype is a fairly data-intensive program, particularly during group calls, this makes PrivateVPN a strong choice, particularly for those who have slower internet to begin with. PrivateVPN is also capable of unblocking popular services like BBC iPlayer and Hulu, so you can use it to stream TV from back home if you’re in the UAE on vacation.

This VPN uses 256-bit encryption, protection against DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 leaks and a strict no-logging policy to help keep your personal data safe. There’s also a kill switch in the Windows app, with similar functionality coming to Mac devices soon. PrivateVPN goes above and beyond with customer service; the team are reachable 24/7 via live chat and can even install the software remotely with your permission.

This service offers apps for Windows, Android, iOS, and MacOS. Manual installation is required for Linux systems and network routers.

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Read our full review of PrivateVPN.

4. Surfshark

Surfshark is a strong choice for streaming thanks to its high speeds, exceptional unblocking capability, and 800+ servers across 50 countries. However, these qualities also mean it’s an ideal candidate for those looking to use Skype when abroad. Best of all, Surfshark has no connection limit, meaning you can protect all of your devices with a single account.

This service doesn’t compromise when it comes to security. It keeps you safe using 256-bit encryption, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and a kill switch (in every version). This service doesn’t log any personally identifiable information, although you can sign up using Bitcoin if you’d prefer. Customer support can be reached 24/7 via live chat in the event of any problems.

Surfshark has MacOS, iOS, Windows, Android, and Amazon Firestick and Fire TV apps. However, manual installation is required to work with Linux systems and internet routers.

NO CONNECTION LIMIT:Surfshark offers very high speeds, excellent security and privacy features, and the ability to use Skype anywhere. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of Surfshark.

Why is Skype blocked?

In the UAE, VoIP providers are required to have a special license before their services can be used. The problem is, to date, only two services are available, both of which are run by Etisalat, a national ISP. The exact reasons for this requirement are unclear, but the Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA) lists one of its goals as “[ensuring] that licensees adhere to quality standards of performance.” You’d think that with 300 million active users worldwide, Skype would qualify, but apparently not.

There may be an ulterior motive to this ban. The UAE has a history of strict internet censorship. Also, many VoIP services including Skype and WhatsApp now offer end-to-end encryption. This makes it incredibly difficult for the government to monitor user activity. This isn’t mere speculation; the UAE already has strict rules on VPN usage, most likely for a similar reason.  

Can I unblock Skype with a free VPN?

Using a free VPN is generally a bad idea, but even more so when in the UAE. These services usually have fairly small networks, yet more users than premium services. This leads to extremely slow speeds, long wait times for servers, and monthly data limits. As a result, you’re likely to experience video that hangs, stuttering audio, and possible call disconnects when using a free VPN with Skype.

Unfortunately, as these services don’t charge their users directly, they’ve had to find alternative — sometimes shady — ways to make money. They might insert ads into the pages you visit, or store tracking cookies on your device that allow the service to monitor your activities. This information isn’t recorded for no reason; it’s highly valuable and can be sold to third parties later, usually without your express permission or knowledge.

Free VPNs aren’t known for their security. Even assuming you install a legitimate app and not one designed to infect your system with malware, research shows that a huge percentage of free VPNs are vulnerable to IPv6 leaks. Worse, some don’t even encrypt your traffic at all, meaning you’re actually less secure than with no VPN. These risks extend to larger providers too; we’ve even seen a major free VPN sell its users’ bandwidth to help run a botnet.

You can’t be too careful when it comes to online security, particularly when in countries with a history of internet censorship. To protect yourself, we recommend using a reputable VPN with powerful encryption and a customer-first privacy policy.

Are VPNs legal in the United Arab Emirates?

Are VPNs legal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

VPNs have many legitimate uses and are used legally all over the world. For instance, remote employees can use them to connect to their employer’s internal network, gamers can protect themselves from DDoS attacks, and users can stay safe when connected to public wifi networks. However, with VPN legislation varying from one location to another, it’s important to know the local laws when you visit another country. So, are VPNs legal in the UAE?

Federal Decree-Law No. 5 of 2012 On Combating Cybercrimes (PDF), article 9 describes punishments for those who use VPNs to commit, or conceal evidence of, a crime. However, it does not make VPN usage inherently illegal.

We recommend carefully researching the UAE’s copyright, cybercrime, and VoIP legislation before attempting to use a VPN in this country.

What other sites and services are blocked in the UAE?

The UAE has some of the most heavily-restricted internet access in the world. Below is a list of the types of content automatically censored by the country’s government. Note: as the TRA does not publically list every banned website, there may be additional categories of material that are not mentioned below.

  1. Dating
  2. Gambling
  3. Pornography
  4. Pro-LGBT content
  5. Religiously sensitive material
  6. Anti-UAE content
  7. Proxy servers and VPN-related websites
  8. Unlicensed communications platforms (Skype, WhatsApp, etc.)

Will Skype ever be available in the UAE?

Microsoft and Apple are currently in talks with the UAE regarding bringing Skype and FaceTime back. However, it’s likely to be a slow process. After all, ISPs are unlikely to provide access to services that guarantee they’ll lose money.

Both tech giants are investing heavily in the UAE. Microsoft is building two new data centers there and Apple is opening several new stores across the country, so it’s certainly possible that a compromise could be reached. Sadly, with a petition calling for Skype to be unblocked swiftly taken down by ISPs, it seems significant international investment may be the only way to change the government’s mind.

Flag image: يرفرف by Abdulla Al Muhairi, licensed under CC BY 2.0