As with most countries in the world, expats in Germany who want to communicate with friends and family have the choice between taking out a contract (Handyvertrag) or simply purchasing a prepaid SIM card. Many mobile operators now also offer flexible, pay-as-you-go plans, where customers who regularly top up their prepaid SIM cards receive free texts, calls and data.
Mobile telephony providers in Germany
- Lebara (in English)
- O2 (contract)
- O2 (Prepaid)
If you’re unsure which mobile phone company is right for you, why not use a price comparison site such as DeinHandy to compare packages?
Mobile phone contracts in Germany
It is worth noting that mobile phone contracts in Germany, in contrast to many other EU countries, tend to be relatively inflexible. They are normally for a minimum of 24 months and often contain a clause that allows them to be renewed automatically as soon as the original contract expires. If you wish to cancel your contract early, you will be charged a hefty fee.
As of 2021, however, customers can no longer be locked into lengthy contracts after their original contract is renewed. This means that if you fail to cancel your contract within the minimum notice period (which is usually three months), you will be put on a one-month rolling contract that can be cancelled with one month's notice.
Many mobile phone providers also offer discounted prices for contract packages that combine mobile phones with internet or fixed phone lines.
Should I take out a contract or buy a prepaid SIM?
This depends on how long you will be staying in Germany. Once taken out, phone contracts are relatively uncomplicated and offer peace of mind - you don’t have to worry about topping up, for instance.
However, if you are at all unsure about how long you will stay in Germany (as many expats are) it might be wise to get a prepaid SIM card to avoid additional expenses in the future. The major advantage of prepaid SIMs is flexibility: you are not tied to a contract and are free to leave whenever you wish. It can also work out cheaper, as many phone companies will provide you with a SIM for free and, as mentioned above, reward regular top-ups with bonus minutes, texts or data.
Getting a German SIM card
Since 2017, anyone wishing to take out a phone contract or purchase a prepaid SIM card in Germany has to provide a valid ID and proof of address. This is the result of the German government attempting to crack down on anonymous communication between criminals. In order to get a German mobile phone number, therefore, you will need:
- Valid ID, such as a passport (not a driving licence)
- Registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinigung)
Roaming in the EU
The good news is that, as of 2017, if you have a German mobile phone you can also use your minutes, texts and data anywhere in the EU without incurring additional roaming charges.
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