Can foreigners living (or traveling) in Germany purchase prepaid SIM cards for their mobile phone?
The short answer is – yes. But you need to answer some questions before actually buying a prepaid SIM card.
If you are coming from the US or Canada, make sure your phone is at least tri-band (or quad-band). This means it will operate on the GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) which is used across Europe on either 900 or 1800 MHz. Phones from the UK, Australia and New Zealand should work in Germany as they almost always operate on the GSM spectrum.
Once you have determined your phone is compatible, go to your current service provider and make sure the phone is unlocked – or that you have the unlock code. This will ensure that the phone will work once you have inserted the German SIM card.
Advantages to a prepaid German SIM card, which can either be purchased at home or once you arrive, is that it allows you to pay local rates without roaming charges and without a binding contract and you pay for outgoing calls only.
If a prepaid SIM card won’t work for you, some other options are:
- Buy (or rent) a pre-paid GSM phone in Germany that includes airtime.
- Buy an inexpensive, unlocked GSM phone that can be used with any SIM chip.
- Continue using your North American phone in Europe and pay the roaming charges. This is probably the best option only if you plan to make or receive a very limited number of calls while in Germany.
You can go to our article on mobile service in Germany for more in-depth discussion of these answers: howtogermany.com/pages/mobilephones.html.