How To Get a Sim Card for Germany
Getting a sim card in Germany is hard but there are ways to get around it
Sept. 1, 2018
Sept. 2, 2018
This post makes the following assumptions: You are a digital nomad who works online while traveling internationally, you change countries frequently (every other month or more), and you need large amounts of data (more than 10 Gbs per month). If these assumptions do not apply to you, this advice may not, either.
May contain affiliate links.
How do you get a sim card in Germany?
You don't...unless you have an address in Germany, that is.
The bad news is, it's a pain in the butt to get a sim card in Germany. The good news is, as of 2017 phone carriers in all EU countries are forbidden from charging roaming fees while in other EU countries, so the way to get around this is to just get a sim card from somewhere else, and use it while in Germany. You can either do this by getting on in-person from a neighboring country, or ordering a European sim card online from Amazon. If you insist on getting a German sim card in Germany, you can read all about the annoying bureaucratic process; here I am only describing ways to get and use sims from other countries for use while in Germany.
Getting a Sim Card for Use Germany, by Visiting a Nearby Country
As I write I am sitting in an apartment in Berlin, where I've been staying for a few weeks, and in my phone there is the sim card I bought in Spain about two months ago. Just as I'd hoped, it works very well outside of Spain and I am able to pay my bills with my non-Spanish, US American debit card. I wrote about how to get a Spanish sim card in another post, and highly recommend this as a solution for any digital nomad who will be spending a lot of time in Germany, but not enough time to get a proper address.
Ordering a European Sim Card Online from Amazon
Recently one of my oldest buddies introduced me to her sister online because her sister was planning on coming to Germany the same time I was, and my friend was worried about her sister, who had never travelled outside of the United State before, and was wondering if I could help her sister out. So naturally I did what anyone would do for one of their dearest friends—I invited her sister to stay with me, then to my friend I pretended her sister had never arrived, and cackled as I imagined her freaking out and worry about her dear sister getting herself Taken.
Don't worry, Liam Neeson did not need to intervene; I told my friend I was just messing with her about an hour and a half later. But in addition to a place to stay, my friend's sister was also grateful for the tip I had given her, to order a sim card ahead of time from Three via Amazon. For the short term traveler, Three offers—interestingly enough, three—great options:
At potentially $3/Gb this is significantly lower than any all-purpose international sim cards, but still works in most common travel destination countries, including Germany. Of course, if you are thinking of buying this or any International sim card for your next trip, please do check to ensure it works in the country you're going to. Lucky for you, I've made a huge chart of which sim card works in which county, so you don't need to track down the fine print.
Though my friend's sister was grateful for how easy it was to have a sim card ready right upon her arrival in Germany, this card is not ideal for the long term traveler, as it will expire in 30 days. It is nonetheless perfect for staying connected on a short trip. Sister said all she had to do was pop it in her phone at the airport, and she was able to use it to easily navigate her way to my apartment, without having to do any hassle of activation, or customer service.
If you are a German resident and stumbled upon this page looking for a discussion of which carrier is better than the others, please allow me to humbly apologize as I direct you to the Sim wiki. They provide all the details I gloss over; I'm primarily interested in helping travelers and digital nomads stay connected.
Additionally, I'd be remiss if I did not remind you that, in order for any international sim card to work in your device, your mobile device it must be:
- GSM (AT&T and T-Mobile) NOT CDMA (Sprint, Verizon)
And that's it! Germany can be a land of bureaucracy, but it's easy to get around it if you know how.
All information presented is accurate as of the date of writing, but it's always possible for it to go out of date without my knowledge. for more up to date information please consult carrier websites, or the Germany Sim Card Wiki.