Your SIM card options in Germany
Costs for mobile phone plans are split among these lines in Germany:
- monthly base fee
- price for talking on the phone per minute or a flat plan where you can talk as much as you want
- price to send SMS messages
- price for data usage (WhatsApp, Facebook, browsing the internet)
- price for the phone if you select a plan which comes with a phone
I do NOT recommend buying a combined package of mobile phone and plan. The phone will be tied to your provider for a given time and in the end, it is usually more expensive than signing up for a mobile plan without a phone and buying a smartphone separately.
All these costs are usually paid each month or prepaid. Prepaid means you transfer money to your phone card and it stops working once all the money is used up. Prepaid is a good SIM card option for students as this is the fastest and easiest way to get a German phone number. *O2 is a popular prepaid provider.
Mobile phone contracts in Germany charge monthly and withdraw money directly from your bank account. You need a German bank account for this kind of contract.
What papers do I need to buy a German SIM card?
You need to identify yourself with official documents to buy a German SIM card. These are the papers you need:
- ID or passport. Sometimes a visa or Aufenthaltstitel is asked for as well.
- A German address. Some providers might ask for an address from your country of origin instead. The address must exist as some kind of plausibility check is run source. They might or might not additionally ask you for proof of address registration source.
What do you need to consider when choosing a mobile phone plan?
Besides the costs, you need to check for:
- the amount of data included in the plan. We are talking about data packages like 500MB, 1GB, 2GB, 3GB etc. Please note that your phone only consumes these data packages if not connected to a Wifi. After the mobile data budget is used up, services like Facebook, Whatsapp or browsing the web will be slow to impossible unless you have access to Wifi. Some providers offer data packages whereas some services like Spotify or Whatsapp are excluded from the data consumption limit. Please note that filling up on data once you hit the threshold is usually more expensive than choosing a plan with a higher data amount from the start.
- Data speed or Datengeschwindigkeit. Please note that this is the maximum possible data speed which is usually not available. Therefore a higher data speed makes a difference but not as much as a higher download speed might indicate source.
- The network: Telekom (D1) is the best, followed by Vodafone (D2) and Teléfonica / O2 (D3) source. *Check24 displays which network a provider is using.
- The runtime of the contract or Vertraglaufszeit. Prepaid contracts can usually be canceled in a month whereas other contracts have 2-year runtime. Prepaid SIM cards can be bought without a credit check. A credit check might fail if you just arrived in Germany. 2-year contracts usually display a low price in ads but the higher monthly fee you pay after some months and for the rest of the contract is hidden in the small print. 2-year minimum contracts are by law cancellable monthly after the 2 years are over source.
- Flat rates: Telefon-Flat means you can talk on the phone as long as you like without additional costs.
- eSIM: all providers in this review have the option to use a virtual eSIM card instead of a plastic SIM card. This is useful if you want to activate the phone and internet connection the moment you arrive in Germany. Here is a list of phones that support the eSIM format.
Our selection of the best mobile phone plans in Germany by price, data speed and volume
All prices and other data checked 01. January 2023. Prices are not guaranteed. Please check the providers' websites for prices.
|Provider||Fees||Type of contract||Data volume||Data speed||Network quality|
|*Telekom||Starting at 35.- EUR / month. Free calls and SMS to all German networks||24 months contract duration||5 GB||300 MB download speed||++ Telekom network|
|*Vodafone||Starting at 30.- EUR / month. Free calls to all German networks||24 months contract duration||5 GB. Unused data can be carried over into the next month.||500 MB download speed. Unlimited data plan available for 80.- EUR / month||+ Vodafone network|
|*fraenk||Starting at 10.- EUR / month. Free calls and SMS to all German networks, roaming for Switzerland included||Can be cancelled monthly||7 GB||22 MB download speed||++ Telekom network|
|*Smartmobil||Starting at 7.- EUR / month. Free calls and SMS to all German networks||Can be canceled anytime but the 24 months option saves you 30.-||6 GB||50 MB download speed||+/- O2 network|
|*O2||Starting at 10.- EUR / month. Free calls and SMS to all German networks||Prepaid||3 GB||225 MB download speed||+/- O2 network|
|*Lebara||Flat rate starting at 10.- EUR / month including 250 min international / non-EU calls||Prepaid||4 GB||18 MB download speed||++ Telekom network|
- Data volume: once the data volume is used up connection speed will become very slow.
- Data speed: the average amount of data downstream per second.
- Network: *Telekom has the best network followed by Vodafone source. The O2 network in my experience has a good network quality in cities but possibly dead spots in rural areas.
Freefunk is the only provider with unlimited data usage. The costs are 1.- Euro per day and you can cancel anytime source. However, there are reports that Freefunk terminates contracts with users with heavy bandwidth usage source.
*1&1 DSL plans combine internet at home and 2 SIM cards with a 500MB internet connection and an SMS/call flat rate in one contract.
How to compare mobile phone plans
I highly recommend NOT going to a shop unless you have issues with address verification as, in my experience, you might get talked into a less favorable contract.
I use the *Check24 website to compare plans. The advantages are:
- many configuration options
- transparent prices including all costs
- overview of many mobile phone providers
- *Check24 cancels your old contract if necessary and switching providers is really easy.
Follow these steps to get the best mobile phone contract in Germany:
- Go to *Check24
- Select the data volume and speed and whether you want a talk flat rate. Contract duration or Vertragslaufzeit can be 1 month or 2 years.
- Choose among the list of providers. Note that Durchschnitt pro Monat means the actual monthly price including set-up and all other costs!
What to expect from the German phone network?
The German phone network is notoriously bad outside urban areas in my opinion. I live in Berlin and it works fine here, including most of the time on the U-Bahn (metro). Once I leave Berlin for more remote parts of Germany the connection often just stops working or the data connection becomes very slow. *Telekom is your best option if you need to stay connected outside of urban areas.
Navigating using Google maps on highways is usually never an issue. Make sure you use the map download option once you plan to drive to remote areas. Your phone connection can also be very spotty or not exist at all when using the train in Germany source.
- Telekom (D1) is the most extensive network
- followed by Vodafone (D2)
- and Teléfonica / O2 (D3) source
You can easily compare mobile providers and their networks by checking the Netz label next to the provider name on *Check24 if connectivity is important for you.
How to use your German SIM card in other countries
Mobile phone data and call prices can become very expensive if you use your mobile phone plan in a country outside the EU. Please note that Switzerland is not part of the EU so you might want to disable data usage when visiting Switzerland, and also when using Google maps to drive through, as this can become very costly!
I am using *Smartmobil and experienced that the phone connection would just stop working in another EU country depending on the network. Buying a local SIM card might be the most reliable option when traveling abroad with your German SIM card.
Decide whether a prepaid or running contract is best for you. Use *Check24 to find the best offer or go to a local shop and bring ID and passport and anything which can verify your address in case that doesn't work for you.