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SIM Cards in Germany

Written by
Janine El-Saghir
Whether you're a student embarking on a semester abroad or an expat settling into a new chapter, having a German phone number is indispensable. Should you opt for the flexibility of a prepaid SIM card or commit to the perks of a mobile contract? Which is the best mobile network in Germany? This guide offers insights into the best prepaid SIM cards, top-tier mobile contracts, and cheapest unlimited internet SIM cards to help you find the best SIM card in Germany for your needs.
At a glance...
  • Telekom provides the best network coverage and quality but with higher costs, while Vodafone offers good coverage and data deals, and O2 is more budget-friendly with strong urban coverage but weaker in rural areas.
  • Prepaid SIM cards cater to short-term visitors and offer flexibility with slightly higher calling and data rates, whereas mobile contracts are cost-effective for long-term residents and often include the latest smartphones.
  • Since 2017, everyone buying a German SIM card must activate it by providing an ID and address. Your temporary accommodation address should work just fine.

Telekom MagentaMobil Prepaid
Prepaid SIM (eSIM can be requested after activation)
Excellent network coverage
From 1GB to unlimited data (up to 300 Mbit/s)
From 50 minutes to unlimited calls and SMS
Roaming in the EU, UK and Switzerland
Free internet access at 10,000 Telekom hotspots
Mobile app in English
€9.95 one-time connection fee
Cost / 4 weeks
from  €4.95
Vodafone CallYa
Prepaid SIM or eSIM
Great network coverage
From 1GB to unlimited data (up to 500 Mbit/s)
From 100 minutes to unlimited calls and SMS
Roaming in the EU and UK
Mobile app and customer service in English
Cost / 4 weeks
from  €4.99
O2 Prepaid
Prepaid SIM (eSIM can be requested after activation)
Good network coverage in urban areas
From 6GB to unlimited data (up to 300 Mbit/s)
Unlimited calls and SMS
Roaming in the EU
Everything in German
Cost / 4 weeks
from  €9.99
Telekom MagentaMobil
SIM or eSIM with a monthly or 24-month contract
Excellent network coverage
From 5GB to unlimited data (up to 300 Mbit/s)
Unlimited calls and SMS
Roaming in the EU, UK and Switzerland
Free internet access at 10,000 Telekom hotspots
Mobile app in English
€39.95 one-time connection fee
Monthly fee
from  €34.95
Vodafone GigaMobil
SIM or eSIM with a 24-month contract
Great network coverage
From 5GB to unlimited data (up to 500 Mbit/s)
Unlimited calls and SMS
Roaming in the EU and UK
Mobile app and customer service in English
Monthly fee
from  €23.99
O2 Mobile
SIM or eSIM with a monthly or 24-month contract
Good network coverage in urban areas
From 4GB to unlimited data (up to 300 Mbit/s)
Unlimited calls and SMS
Roaming in the EU
€39.99 one-time connection fee
Everything in German
Monthly fee
from  €19.99

German mobile operators

Germany has 3 main mobile operators: Telekom, Vodafone, and O2.

  • Telekom has the best coverage but charges higher monthly fees.
  • Vodafone offers good coverage at more affordable rates.
  • O2 delivers the least rural coverage but compensates with cheaper monthly fees.

Telekom

Telekom, known internationally as T-Mobile, is Europe’s largest telecommunications company and the go-to German mobile provider for those seeking superior quality and coverage. Telekom’s network quality is unmatched, primarily due to its reliance on the state-owned D1-Netz network. This quality comes at a cost, with plans being pricier than those of its competitors.

According to an in-depth study across Germany, Telekom has consistently claimed the title of the best mobile network in Germany for the past twelve years. The excellent coverage and reliability make Telekom a top choice for those who prioritize quality and don’t mind higher prices.

Vodafone

Vodafone is the second-largest mobile network in Germany. It uses the D2-Netz network and delivers exceptional internet speed and good area coverage.

An interesting feature of Vodafone is its ability to allow you to choose your most used apps (Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Spotify, Netflix, etc.) and use them without data limitations.

O2

O2, operated by Telefónica Germany since 2005, is the third-largest mobile network in Germany. It offers the lowest tariffs and the highest data volume, making it an excellent choice for those living in larger cities. However, O2’s rural network coverage is not as comprehensive as that of Telekom or Vodafone.

All three networks provide discounts for combining internet and TV services in your contract. It’s worth inquiring about these offers when signing up.

Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)

In addition to the big three mobile operators, Germany is also home to a growing number of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). These MVNOs are becoming increasingly prominent in the German mobile phone market. These providers use the networks of the 3 main mobile operators, often delivering good coverage in urban areas at cheaper prices. However, their coverage in more rural areas may not be as comprehensive.

The most popular MVNOs in Germany are:

  • on Telekom network: congstar, Edeka Smart, Penny Mobil, fraenk, and others.
  • on Vodafone network: otelo, Lidl Connect, Lycamobile, and others.
  • on O₂ network: Blau, Aldi Talk, Lebara, ortel mobile, and others.

EU Roaming

As part of the EU, Germany enforces common roaming rules, allowing you to use your SIM like you’re at home without extra charges. This means you can make calls, send texts, and use mobile data at domestic rates across most European countries. Just keep in mind that while the United Kingdom is included in this group until at least the end of 2023, Switzerland is mostly not.

Prepaid SIM or mobile contract?

The choice between a prepaid SIM card and a mobile phone contract largely depends on your needs and the duration of your stay in Germany. Prepaid SIM cards allow more freedom and are typically pricier when calling, messaging, or using mobile data. These are suitable options if you don’t use your phone much or only stay in Germany briefly.

On the other hand, German phone contracts offer cheaper rates and are more popular among those intending to stay for a while.

Prepaid SIM

Prepaid SIM cards provide a convenient and fast way to obtain a functioning German phone number, all without the need for a contract. They are great for making calls, sending SMS messages, and using mobile data. Telekom, Vodafone, and O2 all offer prepaid SIM cards, and you can top up your mobile credit online, through your mobile operator’s app, or by buying top-up cards from retailers.

Prepaid tariffs generally cost slightly more than phone contracts but offer the flexibility of cancellation whenever you want, making them a suitable option for those unsure of how long they will stay in Germany.

Mobile contract

A mobile phone contract is a great option if you plan to stay in Germany for a while or use your phone a lot. Mobile phone contracts typically offer:

  • Cheaper rates
  • The latest smartphone
  • Binding for 24 months
  • Small, one-off activation fee at the start of the contract

They are ideal for expats planning to stay for a few years or for those who want to upgrade their phones.

The plan costs are paid off in monthly installments, and at the end of the contract, the phone is yours to keep.

Best prepaid SIM cards in Germany

The best prepaid SIM cards in Germany are Telekom MagentaMobil Prepaid, Vodafone CallYa, and O2 Prepaid.

Telekom MagentaMobil Prepaid

Telekom’s MagentaMobil Prepaid is a great option if you’re looking for excellent network coverage. They offer 6 tariffs for their Telekom prepaid SIM card in Germany:

  • Telekom MagentaMobil Prepaid S – 1 GB at €4.95 per 4 weeks.
  • Telekom MagentaMobil Prepaid M – 5 GB at €9.95 per 4 weeks.
  • Telekom MagentaMobil Prepaid L – 10 GB at €14.95 per 4 weeks.
  • Telekom MagentaMobil Prepaid XL Special – 18 GB at €19.95 per 4 weeks.
  • Telekom MagentaMobil Prepaid XL – 24 GB at €24.95 per 4 weeks.
  • Telekom MagentaMobil Prepaid Max – unlimited mobile data at €99.95 per 4 weeks.

All prepaid tariffs include unlimited calls and text messages to all German networks, except for the smallest tariff S that only gives 50 minutes with other networks (unlimited on the Telekom network).

Telekom has the mobile app in English, making it accessible for expats and non-German speakers.

Vodafone CallYa

Vodafone offers 6 tariffs for their Vodafone prepaid SIM card in Germany:

  • Vodafone CallYa Classic – €0 per 4 weeks (3 cents per MB, 9 cents per minute or SMS).
  • Vodafone CallYa Start – 1 GB at €4.99 per 4 weeks.
  • Vodafone CallYa Allnet Flat S – 6 GB at €9.99 per 4 weeks.
  • Vodafone CallYa Allnet Flat M – 10 GB at €14.99 per 4 weeks.
  • Vodafone CallYa Digital – 20 GB at €20.00 per 4 weeks.
  • Vodafone CallYa Black – unlimited mobile data at €79.99 per 4 weeks.

All prepaid tariffs include unlimited calls and text messages to all German networks, except for the Classic tariff — that is a free SIM card, and Start tariff — that only gives 100 minutes with other networks (unlimited on the Vodafone network).

Vodafone also offers an English language mobile app and customer service, which can be a significant advantage for expats and non-German speakers.

O2 Prepaid

O2 Prepaid is a cheaper alternative with good coverage in urban areas. They offer 5 tariffs for their O2 prepaid SIM card in Germany:

  • O2 Prepaid Free Card – €0 per 4 weeks (99 cents per day for 30 MB, 9 cents per minute or SMS).
  • O2 Prepaid S – 6 GB at €9.99 per 4 weeks.
  • O2 Prepaid M – 18 GB at €14.99 per 4 weeks.
  • O2 Prepaid L – 24 GB at €19.99 per 4 weeks.
  • O2 Prepaid Max – 999 GB at €74.99 per 4 weeks.

All prepaid tariffs include unlimited calls and text messages to all German networks, except for the Free Card tariff — that is a free SIM card.

O2 has the website and the mobile app only in German, which might be a bit challenging for non-German speakers.

Best mobile contracts in Germany

The best mobile contracts in Germany are Telekom MagentaMobil, Vodafone GigaMobil, and O2 Mobile.

Telekom MagentaMobil

Telekom offers 5 mobile phone contract plans with excellent network coverage:

  • Telekom MagentaMobil XS – 5 GB at €34.95 per month.
  • Telekom MagentaMobil S – 10 GB at €39.95 per month.
  • Telekom MagentaMobil M – 20 GB at €49.95 per month.
  • Telekom MagentaMobil L – 40 GB at €59.95 per month.
  • Telekom MagentaMobil XL – unlimited mobile data at €84.95 per month.

All plans include unlimited calls and text messages to all German networks, free internet surfing at all Telekom hotspots within Germany, and EU roaming including UK and Switzerland.

You can choose a monthly or 24-month contract, with or without a new phone, and there are special prices for people younger than 28 years.

Vodafone GigaMobil

Vodafone offers 5 mobile phone contract plans with good coverage and affordable prices:

  • Vodafone GigaMobil XS – 5 GB at €23.99 per month.
  • Vodafone GigaMobil XS+ – 10 GB at €27.99 per month.
  • Vodafone GigaMobil S – 24 GB at €31.99 per month.
  • Vodafone GigaMobil M – 250 GB at €39.99 per month.
  • Vodafone GigaMobil XL – unlimited mobile data at €63.99 per month.

All plans come with 5G data, unlimited calls and texts, and no roaming charges in the EU and the UK.

Plus, they offer discounts if you also have internet and landline connected, or if you’re under 28 years old.

O2 Mobile

O2 offers 11 mobile phone contract plans with lower prices and good coverage in urban areas:

  • O2 Mobile S – 4 GB at €19.99 per month.
  • O2 Mobile S Boost – 8 GB at €24.99 per month.
  • O2 Mobile M – 25 GB at €29.99 per month.
  • O2 Mobile M Boost – 50 GB at €34.99 per month.
  • O2 Mobile L – 70 GB at €39.99 per month.
  • O2 Mobile L Boost – 140 GB at €44.99 per month.
  • O2 Mobile XL – 280 GB at €49.99 per month.
  • O2 Mobile Unlimited Basic – €29.99 per month (up to 3 MBit/s).
  • O2 Mobile Unlimited Smart – €39.99 per month (up to 15 MBit/s).
  • O2 Mobile Unlimited on Demand – €59.99 per month (up to 300 MBit/s on demand).
  • O2 Mobile Unlimited Max – €99.99 per month (up to 300 MBit/s).

The amount of GB you get for each plan grows every year.

All plans also include 4G LTE and 5G data, unlimited calls and texts, a flexible contract (24 months or monthly cancelable), and free EU roaming.

Best unlimited internet SIM cards in Germany

Best unlimited internet SIM cards in Germany are Telekom MagentaMobil XL, Vodafone GigaMobil XL, and O2 Mobile Unlimited.

Telekom MagentaMobil XL

Telekom offers 1 contract plan and 1 prepaid tariff with unlimited mobile internet in Germany:

  • Telekom MagentaMobil XL – €84.95 per month.
  • Telekom MagentaMobil Prepaid Max – €99.95 per 4 weeks.

Both options provide access to the 4G and 5G networks with download speeds up to 300 Mbit/s and upload speeds up to 50 Mbit/s.

One interesting feature is that you can order additional SIM cards with the same data volume at a much lower price. The second adult pays €19.95 per month, and each additional person and everyone under 18 years only pays €9.95 per month.

Vodafone GigaMobil XL

Vodafone offers 1 contract plan and 1 prepaid tariff with unlimited mobile internet in Germany:

  • Vodafone GigaMobil XL – €63.99 per month.
  • Vodafone CallYa Black – €79.99 per 4 weeks.

Vodafone has the fastest mobile internet available, with download speeds up to 500 Mbit/s and upload speeds up to 100 Mbit/s.

O2 Mobile Unlimited

O2 offers 4 contract plans and 1 prepaid tariff with unlimited mobile internet in Germany:

  • O2 Mobile Unlimited Basic – €29.99 per month (up to 3 Mbit/s).
  • O2 Mobile Unlimited Smart – €39.99 per month (up to 15 Mbit/s).
  • O2 Mobile Unlimited on Demand – €59.99 per month (up to 300 Mbit/s on demand).
  • O2 Mobile Unlimited Max – €99.99 per month (up to 300 Mbit/s).
  • O2 Prepaid Max – 999 GB at €74.99 per 4 weeks.

Cheapest SIM cards in Germany

If you’re on a tight budget and looking for a cheap SIM card in Germany, Lidl Connect and Aldi Talk are considered some of the best deals for budget travelers. They are also the most popular options among students.

Lidl Connect

Lidl Connect, offered by the German supermarket chain Lidl, is a prepaid SIM card that offers a great deal for students. Their current offer is 10 GB for €8.99 per 4 weeks, with unlimited calls and texts within Germany and roaming for EU and UK.

Aldi Talk

Aldi Talk, another supermarket chain that offers a prepaid SIM card, is also a popular option among students. Their current offer is 10 GB for €8.99 per 4 weeks. However, they use the O2 network, which has excellent reception in cities but not in rural areas.

Free SIM cards in Germany

Both Vodafone and O2 offer 1 prepaid SIM card tariff for free: Vodafone CallYa Classic and O2 Prepaid Free Card.

Vodafone CallYa Classic

Vodafone offers the CallYa Classic prepaid SIM card tariff for free, charging only 3 cents per MB and 9 cents per minute or SMS. This German pay-as-you-go SIM can be a cost-effective choice for those who don’t use their phones frequently.

O2 Prepaid Free Card

O2 offers the Prepaid Free Card tariff for free. They charge 99 cents per day for 30 MB, and 9 cents per minute or SMS. Similar to Vodafone’s CallYa Classic, this pay-as-you-go SIM in Germany is ideal for infrequent phone users.

How to get a German SIM card?

You can purchase a German SIM card either online or in physical stores such as:

  • grocery stores
  • cell phone stores
  • petrol stations
  • supermarkets

Buy a SIM card online

Follow the link of one of the mentioned providers to buy a SIM card online. You will have to enter your German address, and the card will generally arrive in 2-3 business days via mail.

After purchasing, you can top up your mobile credit through the mobile operator’s app or by purchasing top-up cards from retailers.

Activate your German prepaid SIM card

To activate your German prepaid SIM card, you’ll need to provide a valid ID and a German address. This process can either be done online using a webcam or in person at a German post office.

How to get a German mobile contract?

You have the option to do it online or by visiting a local telecom’s outlet. Both methods are available for your convenience. Just be mindful that shop assistants may not speak English.

To sign up, you’ll need to provide proof of identity, proof of address in Germany, and a German bank account for direct debit payments.

How to cancel a German mobile contract?

Cancelling a German mobile phone contract can be done via ordinary cancellation (after the fixed term) or extraordinary cancellation (before the agreed-upon period). However, for the latter, you either need to provide a valid reason or pay basic fees for another three months after the termination is confirmed. Cancellations are only valid if submitted in writing.

As of 2021, German law forbids network and internet providers to auto-renew your contract, allowing you to cancel it every month after the fixed term ends.

Final thoughts

Choosing the best SIM card or mobile contract in Germany largely depends on your needs and circumstances. While Telekom offers the best availability and most extensive mobile network, its high costs might not be suitable for everyone. Vodafone, on the other hand, offers the fastest data speeds and overall great quality at a better price.

There are also numerous third-party providers out there offering competitive rates. Just make sure that if you opt for a contract, you’re usually tied to a 24-month commitment. Furthermore, make sure you have an unlocked phone to use the SIM card.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, foreigners can purchase prepaid SIM cards for their mobile phones in Germany, but it’s important to ensure your phone is compatible with the local network.

Telekom offers the best mobile network in Germany, relying on the formerly state-owned D1-Netz network, ensuring widespread coverage across the country.

Prepaid SIM cards offer more freedom but are usually more expensive, while mobile phone contracts provide cheaper rates and are suitable for long-term or heavy phone usage.

O2 offers the cheapest unlimited data plan in Germany, starting at €29.99 per month.

Yes, you can get a free SIM card in Germany from Vodafone or O2.

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