you can use a telephone payphone in germany if you do not have your smartphone on you

It’s time to pick a cell phone plan after moving to Germany! But you are not sure how to make the right choice? Here is what you need to make an informed decision.

Choosing a cell phone plan is one thing that is on every expat’s to-do list once they move to Germany – or any country for that matter. Being able to stay connected especially when outside is helpful in navigating the city and staying in touch with friends whilst living in Germany.

There are many offers and phone plans on the market which makes it even more important to choose the best plan from the start. The alternative is to have some coins handy for payphones. That is really the first tip – the payphones look tired standing at the street corners but they work!

What Do You Need To Get a Cell Phone Plan in Germany?

Since 2017, you have to verify yourself before you can get a sim card in Germany. After ordering your SIM card, you will receive a postIdent coupon. Then, you will need your Passport or identification(for EU citizens). You can identify yourself with the app or walk into any Post Office with the coupon printed out or QR code.

Factors to Consider Before Getting a Phone Plan

Before committing to a mobile service provider, here are a few factors to consider.

Network Coverage and Where You Live

Ask around, which network has the best signal and internet connectivity in the area.

How Long You Plan to Live in Germany

If you will be living in Germany for a few months, it’s not necessary to lock yourself in a contract. You can cancel when you are moving away but spare yourself the bureaucracy.

How Much Data You Need?

There is wifi everywhere so probably do not use a lot of mobile data. However, on contracts, it is common that buying extra data is a lot more expensive.

Do You Need All Net Flat?

All Net Flat means you can call any German number for “free”. It is very common. Are you making a lot of calls in a month, or are you making a few calls every now and then(e.g the once in a blue moon calls to the Bürgeramt)? Are you calling people mostly using Whatsapp?

Depending on your needs, paying per minute might be cheaper.

Postpaid Cell Phone Plans

The majority of people in Germany are on postpaid plans. The most common plans run for a period of 24 months. As mentioned earlier, it can get expensive to buy more data if you run out.

Also if you want to cancel your contract, pay attention to the deadlines the provider sets. You are usually required to cancel not less than 3 months before the contract ends. Failure to do so will result in your plan automatically being renewed for another 2 years.

How to Get a Cell Phone Contract in Germany

You can get a contract by going on to the provider’s website and signing up there. Alternatively, you can walk into a local office. Department shops like Mediamarkt and Saturn also have representatives of cell providers waiting to sign you up.

As a rule of thumb, I prefer signing up online. You can always login and use various self-services like cancelling your contract or requesting a new SIM without having to call customer service every time.

Prepaid Cell Phone Plans

You can buy prepaid cards with most of the major providers. The supermarkets like Aldi, Lidl and Penny also have their own reseller prepaid plans. You can buy a top-up card at the supermarket or buy online.

Prepaid plans will also have monthly bundles. For example, you can sign up for a 20 Euro bundle for X amount of data and all net flat and have the flexibility to change the package in 30 days if you need more or less.


Cell Phone Providers in Germany

Here is a list of some of the most popular cell phone providers in no particular order. It is not an exhaustive list. There are lots of resellers and small providers which I have not included here especially if I have not heard much about them. Partly because more popular providers tend to have better customer services especially if you are getting a contract. There is nothing much more frustrating than not being able to reach customer support.

ProviderContract PlanPrepaid Plan
o2YesYes
BlauYesYes
TelekomYesYes
VodafoneYesYes
1&1YesOnly Internet
congstarYesYes
mobilcom-debitelYesYes
klarmobilYesYes
Aldi TalkNoYes
Lidl ConnectNoYes
LycamobileNoYes

Porting Your Mobile Phone Number to Another Provider

You can always port your phone number to any provider. Bear in mind that if you are on a contract, you can still port your number but that will not get you out of it. The provider will port your number and assign a new one to your existing plan.

You can request your number to be ported online or over the phone. You may have to pay a fee to port out of a network. The receiving network will sometimes give you a coupon(gutschein) to offset this cost. It usually takes about a week.

What if I Need a Smartphone with My Plan?

You can also get a cellphone with your plan with the same provider. Add your preferred phone when signing up.

If you are considering a prepaid plan there are also ways to do this without having to pay for a smartphone in full. You can use Nullprozentfinanzierung. Which basically means order your phone and pay for it in instalment at a 0% interest rate. Again you can order online or go to an electronic shop with your residence permit and proof of income to apply.

How to Choose the Best Cell Phone Plan

A good starting point is to use a comparison website. Configure what you need in a plan and compare prices and conditions. The most popular engines are:

  1. Check24
  2. Verivox

Not all providers are on these comparisons networks so also check the provider websites. ´Take enough time to make your decision.

My Experience

When I got to Germany, my first cell phone provider was Lycamobile. Lycamobile has good plans especially at the time when internet calling was not so widespread. They have/had good international calling bundles.

After Lycamobile I moved to 1&1. I had quite a good experience with 1&1. As a heavy internet user, I had enough data to last me through the month and the network was quite stable in Berlin.

I cancelled my 1&1 contract after 4 years. Not because I was unsatisfied – I started using a work cell phone plan so it didn’t make sense to keep my contract. I ported my private number to Vodafone CallYa to give me that flexibility.

Conclusion

Do not rush into getting contracts. If you are not very comfortable with the German language to the point of being able to understand every word customer service representatives say, let someone talk to them for you. If you have to, do not be saying ‘ja’ to everything they say. You might agree to an add-on to your contract without knowing – and it’s binding.

Also pay attention to the fineprint!