Buying a SIM card in Germany
20 Aug 2021
There’s so much more to Germany than being the ‘land of beer’. Hence, if you plan to stay for longer than the time it takes to drink one beer, you will probably want to get a local phone number so you can reach out to your new German friends and stay connected with your dear ones at home. The first step is to buy a SIM card. Coming from a non-EU country, you might expect a SIM card to be expensive or difficult to obtain. However, you will be pleasantly surprised to hear that the process is actually very easy. And better still, there are numerous networks offering packages to cater to everyone’s individual needs in terms of data and calls.
You can buy a SIM card from one of the shops in some airports, or any supermarket or authorised service provider. You could of course already buy a SIMcard at the airport in your home country, but we recommend that you get one after you arrive in Germany.
The three major network providers in Germany are Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and O2, with several other companies providing services on their behalf.
The former T-mobile (now Deutsche Telekom) is widely believed to provide the most reliable network with the best availability of LTE. Some of the providers that use that network include Lebara, ja!mobil and Congstar.
Often said to be the second best provider, Vodafone actually seems to be the preferred choice of most travellers in Germany. They provide roaming services in all EU/EEA countries (except Switzerland). Lycamobile, Otelo and Fyve use the Vodafone network.
Of the main three, O2 is the smallest network, but depending where you live it can be perfectly fine. For example, you will have no problems using it on underground trains (U-Bahn) in Berlin. Operators using this network include Nettokom and ALDI Talk.
What do I need to do to register my SIM card?
Your passport and the address proof where you are staying in Germany are required for the registration of a SIM card. Registration takes place at stores, but can also be done online via a video chat-based system WebID. Sometimes non-biometric passports (e.g., Indian passports) cannot be verified by video chat. But with a residence permit (long-term visa) you should be able to use the online service.
The entire process of SIM registration is really very simple and your SIM card can usually be activated within 10 minutes, although you may be told that activation can take up to two hours. There are many different data and call-time packages tailored to suit different budgets and needs. Once you have one, you will no longer be dependent on WiFi hotspots!
The packages are usually valid for 28 days or a month and need to be topped up before they expire. Often, if you have enough credit on your account, the chosen package will be automatically extended every month. You can also get longer-term contracts that commit you to one or two years with the same company. Make sure that you understand the full terms and conditions before you sign any deal!
As you can see, getting a SIM card in Germany is not difficult at all. The only hurdle may be when you try to choose one option from the multitude that are on offer.
Written by: Sanchari Banerjee
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