Buying a prepaid mobile SIM card in Germany
Our recommendation for prepaid SIM card in Germany: Deutsche Telekom
Mobile providers in Germany
There are three major mobile providers in Germany with numerous resellers (Ger. Mobilfunk-Discounter):
- Deutsche Telekom (Congstar, ja!mobile, Lebara Mobile)
- Vodafone (Fyve, Otelo, and Lycamobile)
- O2 Telefónica (FONIC)
Network coverage and mobile internet speeds
Deutsche Telekom is considered to have the best network coverage in Germany, including rural areas, as well as the best LTE connection speeds.
Vodafone has smaller coverage than Deutsche Telekom but better coverage than O2. If you stay around one town and the reception is good, then you can go with Vodafone. If you travel a lot across the country, Deutsche Telekom might be a better option.
O2 has the smallest coverage countrywide, especially in rural areas, but it's considered to have the best coverage in Berlin U-Bahn system with fair LTE and 3G internet speeds. If you spend most of your time traveling around Berlin, that's probably the best option for you.
- Deutsche Telekom is considered the most expensive but with the best overall service and user experience (check current pricing).
- Vodafone is considered relatively cost-effective but with slightly worse coverage and customer service than Deutsche Telekom (check current pricing).
- O2 is considered the cheapest but with worst coverage especially outside big cities (check current pricing).
Using a reseller
Resellers are usually cheaper often providing incentives and generous discounts, but they often limit mobile internet speeds. For example Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone reserve LTE speeds only for their core customers and resellers don't provide LTE speeds.
O2 provide LTE speeds for their resellers, but it has the smallest coverage among all carriers.
How to buy a German SIM card
In Germany you can buy mobile SIM cards in official carrier stores, partner stores, airports, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations and mobile shops.
You can also order a SIM card online at the provider's website that can be delivered to a valid German address, but if your trip is short the card probably won't arrive before you leave, so we don't recommend this option.
How to register your German SIM card
Regardless of where you buy your SIM card, it needs to be registered before you can use it. To register a SIM card in Germany you need a valid passport (Reisepass), ID card (Personalausweis) or any other officially issued document with picture that proves your name, date of birth and address. You can use your hotel address for this purpose.
- If you buy your prepaid SIM card in Germany at an official carrier store they will register the card for you and it's ready to use right away.
- If you buy your prepaid SIM card at a partner store (Partneragentur) you can register it there, but it will take at least 24 hours for the carrier to verify your data and to activate your card. You will receive a text message with confirmation when it's registered and ready to use.
- If you buy your SIM card at an airport, convenience store, petrol station or anywhere else you must register it via video chat (Video-Ident-Verfahren) using phone, tablet, notebook or desktop PC with video chat capabilities, where you connect to a call center agent that verifies your details and registers the card for you. Registration takes up to 24 hours. The video chat registration is only possible from Monday to Saturday between 8:00 and 21:00, so please take that into account if you're arriving on a weekend.
You can find detailed instructions on video chat registration for the main carriers here: Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, O2.
- It's also possible to register by post, but it's a slow and cumbersome process, thus we don't recommend it.
Be prepared to face problems with registration if you use any other document than a passport as a foreigner because Germans love to stick to their rigid procedures.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Non-EU citizens are required to produce a certificate of residence in Germany in order to register the SIM card.
How to top-up
The easiest way to top-up your phone is to buy a top-up card at any shop, grocery store or petrol station. They usually hang by the checkout lanes and you buy them as any other product so you don't need to speak a word in German.
You can also top-up online at the carriers' websites but please beware that some websites don't accept non-German credit cards.
How to check your balance
You can check your current mobile SIM card balance for different carriers by following these instructions:
- Deutsche Telekom: Enter *100# on the keypad and press the call button
- Vodafone: Enter *100# on the keypad and press the call button
- O2: Enter *100# on the keypad and press the call button
Will my phone work in Germany?
Germany operates on a GSM network, which means all European phones will work in Germany. Travellers from North America should verify if their phone is CDMA or GSM. In the US, T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM while Verizon, US Sprint, and US Cellular use CDMA .
Some Asian phones use CDMA and some GSM. Please check your phone communication standard before arriving in Germany.
Also make sure that your phone is unlocked.
Vodafone seems to have some issues with SIM card activation for travelers. Some customers reported that activation lasted even 48 hours instead of advertised 3-4 hours.