travelem.com

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):

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.

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.

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.

You can also use services like prelado.de or aufladen.de to top-up online. They usually accept foreign credit cards and PayPal but they also charge extra fees.

How to check your balance

You can check your current mobile SIM card balance for different carriers by following these instructions:

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.

Customer perspective

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.