Have you ever found yourself in a foreign country, desperately needing a local SIM card? Well, my girlfriend and I were in that exact situation, which is why we want to write an honest review about Virgin Mobile UAE.
The story begins about a year ago when we relocated to Dubai. As expats, it was clear that using our Estonian SIM card was about as practical as trying to catch a fish with a fork. Therefore, we set out on a mission to find a local SIM card. In a hurry and without research and previous experience, we opted for Virgin Mobile UAE, relying only on Richard Branson's reputable name. So we felt safe, and our expectations were high. But let me tell you, our adventure with them has been a rollercoaster ride of positive and negative experiences.
So, buckle up and get ready for a detailed review of our time with Virgin Mobile UAE. We're confident that our honest and informative review will help you make an informed decision on your SIM card needs in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
About Virgin Mobile UAE
For those who haven't heard about it, Virgin Mobile UAE is a mobile telecommunications service provider operating in the United Arab Emirates. It's one of the brands under the Virgin Group, founded by Sir Richard Branson. By offering home internet and various mobile plans, both prepaid and postpaid, Virgin is known for its flexible and customizable packages. They also emphasize a digital-first approach, allowing users to manage their accounts and services primarily through their mobile app.
An interesting fact that most people are not aware of is that Virgin Mobile UAE, 'the region's first digital service,' has been operating in UAE since September 2017. They are under the Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company PJSC (EITC) along with another UAE-based telecommunication operator, Du.
No matter which provider you choose, Du or Virgin, the money ultimately ends up in the same pocket.
Stores and Locations
Virgin has 73 stores and kiosks all over the United Arab Emirates, and 6 of them are in Dubai International Airport. In my opinion, they have the softest spot right at the Arrivals. You can't miss this.
If you choose not to sign up at the airport, you can easily locate Virgin pop-up kiosks scattered throughout the city. They are pretty well covered. Additionally, if you come across a Virgin Megastore, you can also sign up there.
Signing Up Process and Getting Started
Signing up with Virgin Mobile UAE was quite frustrating for us at the beginning. As we had already left the airport, we had to search for their kiosk. Luckily, we found one in the Mall of Emirates. We approached the sales representatives to sign up, but unfortunately, we could not complete the process as we did not have our passports with us. Even though we showed photos of our passport, it was not sufficient. We had to return another time with the physical documents.
What Documents You Need to Sign Up to Virgin Mobile UAE?
To sign up with Virgin Mobile, you need either a valid Emirates ID or your passport with an entry stamp or visa. This is a requirement by the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA). A photo of the document will not be accepted. You also have to provide your fingerprint for security reasons.
Choosing the Right Package
The following day, we returned to acquire a local SIM card for ourselves. Being non-residents at that time limited our choices. We were given a tablet with an interactive interface to build our own plan.
Since I move around a lot and constantly need to use my phone for work or make quick video calls to family, I opted for 7GB of data, 100 local minutes for restaurant reservations, and zero International minutes. Total price 177.45 AED including VAT.
Choose your number
After choosing the plan, you can select your preferred number. We were so lucky with my girlfriend that we went together. It allowed us to choose similar mobile numbers with only one digit difference. We will keep this number forever.
When the number is chosen, you are asked to provide your fingerprint for security reasons, and after that, you are good to go.
How long does it take from signing up to having Virgin Mobile UAE service active?
The entire process for one person took approximately 15 minutes, and the service started working immediately.
You have to provide fingerprints to confirm the purchase during the sign-up process.
Virgin Mobile UAE Plans and Pricing
Build Your Own Plan
Create a personalized plan tailored to your individual needs that will remain active for 28 days and can be easily renewed while keeping the same number. Upgrade your plan at any time through the app, and rest assured that the monthly plan can be paused if necessary. Additionally, you have the flexibility to cancel your plan at any point.
Local minutes allow you to call and text anyone in the UAE, regardless of the network they're on. Virgin provides seven local-minute choices: 50, 100, 200, 300, 500, 750, and unlimited. You can check your current usage with your provider to make the best decision. Local minutes also include SMS. This means that if you select 100 local minutes, you will receive either 100 minutes or an SMS. For example, if you send 5 SMS, you have 95 minutes remaining for phone calls.
When it comes to using data with Virgin, it can only be used within the UAE. There are ten different data options available, ranging from 2GB to unlimited. To ensure you have enough data during your stay in Dubai, we suggest calculating your current average daily data usage, multiplying it by the number of days you'll be in the UAE, and adding 20%. This should provide sufficient coverage for all your mobile data needs.
However, if you need data while traveling abroad, you can purchase a Roaming bundle through the Virgin app.
International minutes and SMS work similarly to local minutes but are meant for calling abroad from the UAE. You can choose from seven different plans with varying minutes, ranging from 0 to 1000.
Prices for mobile plans range from 82.95 AED to 1588.65 AED. Build your own plan to see the exact price.
Recently they came out with Double Data Offer which gives you twice the amount of Data you choose. NB! You have to take at least 4GB.
They also offer currently -30% for those who pay 6 months upfront, and -50% for those who pay 12 months upfront.
Pay As You Go
Pay-as-you-go provides flexibility to pay for data and minutes as needed, but they may not be the most cost-effective option when compared to other plans. For internet usage, customers need to purchase a Data Booster.
1GB Data Booster costs 50 AED
3GB Data Booster costs 100 AED
5GB Data Booster costs 125 AED
If you are staying for a short period and would like someone else to choose the best option for you, then the Tourist SIM may be the way to go. This option does not require any research, as Virgin has already prepared four packages for you to choose from. It's important to note that the Tourist SIM cannot be extended and the plans are valid for 7, 15, or 30 days.
Coverage and Network Quality
It's important to keep in mind that, like any provider network, indoor or in-car coverage may not be as strong. Local factors like buildings and weather conditions can also impact radio-based mobile technologies. However, based on my personal experience, Virgin Mobile UAE is a reliable option that works throughout the country.
Our Experience with Virgin Mobile UAE
Virgin Mobile UAE didn't disappoint when it came to coverage and network quality. We used the service extensively in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and even in remote areas near the highest restaurant in the UAE. The signal remained reliable, even during a mountainous drive. While abroad, such as in Oman and Japan, we noticed minor differences in internet speed compared to local providers but found it manageable.
Virgin Mobile Coverage Compared to Du or Etisalat
As previously stated, Virgin and Du operate on the same network, resulting in no variation in coverage between them. Despite Etisalat's well-known "best coverage" slogan in the UAE, we prefer to base our decisions on factual information. According to the United Arab Emirates Mobile Network Experience Report by Francesco Rizzato, Principal Technical Analyst, Du surpasses in both 5G Availability and 5G Reach.
According to the previously mentioned report, Etisalat wins with the fastest overall download speed.
Don't worry about coverage and network quality in the UAE. All providers work perfectly.
Customer Service and Support
I've often heard complaints from expats in Dubai that Virgin Mobile UAE's customer service is lacking. It seems that they are more willing to go above and beyond to assist you when you are not yet a paying customer, but once you are on board, it becomes almost impossible to get in touch with them if you have any issues.
Virgin Mobile Support in App
If you're looking to contact them, you should know that the only option available is through the app. However, it's important to note that the app can be quite challenging to use due to frequent crashes and bugs. Although you may be able to leave a message through the app, it is uncertain when they will respond. So, it's best to be patient and keep trying.
Virgin Mobile UAE Support in Store
When you visit a store or kiosk to report an issue, they often suggest contacting them through their application. However, if you are unable to do so due to crashes or long waiting times, they may offer to have someone call you. Unfortunately, in my experience, I have never received a call despite being promised one.
TelcoWorld Tip for Getting in Touch With Virgin Mobile UAE
If you need to contact Virgin, you're in luck, we have it! Here's their email: email@example.com
Additional Services and Features:
Virgin Mobile UAE Roaming Review
During our road trip to Oman and our visit to Japan, we found that Virgin Mobile UAE's international roaming feature was incredibly helpful. Although it does come at a premium price, it was easy to activate via the app. On the other hand, for our trip to the US, we opted for Airalo due to the significant cost difference.
Virgin Mobile UAE Pros and Cons
Reliable service with good network coverage and speed.
Easy and convenient international roaming functionality.
Pricing is relatively high.
Poor customer support experiences, including difficulties in reaching them and unhelpful resolutions.
Reddit Reviews About Virgin Mobile UAE
Is Virgin Mobile UAE Good?
Why is Virgin Mobile UAE customer service so bad?
Thoughts on Virgin Mobile for SIM card
Trustpilot Reviews About Virgin Mobile UAE
Virgin Mobile UAE has average score 1.1 out of 5 based on Trustpilot.
Virgin Mobile UAE Review Conclusion:
Our experience with Virgin Mobile UAE has been a mix of positives and negatives. On the one hand, their network coverage has been reliable, reaching even remote areas. Additionally, their mobile app provides convenient management and customizable plans.
However, customer service has been disappointing, with difficulties in reaching them through the app and unresponsiveness. Furthermore, pricing tends to be on the higher end, but they do offer occasional promotions.
When deciding whether to choose Virgin Mobile UAE for your SIM card needs in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, consider your priorities. If network reliability and customization are important to you and you're willing to deal with customer service challenges, then Virgin Mobile UAE may be a suitable option.
We welcome you to share your experiences and questions in the comments below to assist others in making informed decisions about their mobile service in the UAE.