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 minutes
- 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 to buy 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 to sign up for a mobile plan without a phone and to buy 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 SIM cards are the fastest and easiest way to get a German phone number. Alditalk is one of the most popular prepaid plans.
Mobile phone contracts which charge monthly withdraw money 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 in order 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 plausability check is run source. They might or might not additionally ask you for a proof of address registration source.
What to expect from the German phone network?
The German phone network is notoriously bad outside urban areas. I live in Berlin and it works fine here, including most of the time in 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.
The best mobile phone plans in Germany
What do you need to consider when choosing a 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 from 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 where some services like Spotify are excluded from the data consumption limit.
- Data speed or Datengeschwindigkeit.
- The network: Telekom (D1) is the best, followed by Vodafone (D2) and Teléfonica (D3) source. Check24 displays which network a provider is using.
- Runtime of the contract or Vertraglaufszeit. Prepaid contracts can usually be cancelled in a short time whereas other contracts have a 1 or 2 year runtime.
- Flat rates: Telefon-Flat means you can talk on the phone as long as you like without additional costs.
A list of popular mobile phone plan providers
Mobile plans with a contract
- Telekom - best network but rather pricey compared to other providers
- Smartmobil - I use Smartmobil as it offers the best quality / price ratio for me. You can select between a contract you can cancel with short notice and those slighty cheaper which run 2 years
- Simplytel - offers very reasonable rates, similar to Smartmobil
Prepaid providers in Germany
- Telekom prepaid plans are a bit more pricey than those below but they offer 5G and the best network
- Congstar - prepaid provider which uses the good D1 network and has reasonable rates
- Alditalk - popular prepaid provider
I recommend to use Check24 to compare these and many other providers.
How to find the best mobile phone plan according to your needs
I highly recommend NOT to go to a shop unless you have issues with address verification as, in my experience, you might get talked into a 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!
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, also when using Google maps to drive trough, 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.
German phone numbers formats and area codes
Examples of German mobile phone numbers
Use this format when calling a German mobile phone number from inside Germany:
- 0160 66 22 899
- 0178 32 11 111
Use this format when calling a German mobile phone number from outside Germany:
- 0049 160 66 22 899
- 0049 178 32 11 111 -> You basically drop the zero at the beginning of the mobile phone number. This works from outside and inside Germany so it is the preferred format to save numbers in your phone.
Examples of German landline phone numbers with area codes
You need to add the area code to call a landline number from outside of the area.
- Berlin: 030 62 51 xx
- Munich: 089 xx xx xx
- Münster: 0251 xx xx xx
Again, drop the zero if calling with the German country code from outside Germany f.e.
0049 30 62 51 xx or
0049 89 xx xx xx.
- 110 -> police
- 112 -> fire department or ambulance
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. Check the Netz of the provider to make sure you are in the D1 or D2 Netz for best connectivity.