How to Use Your Cell Phone While Traveling in Germany In 2024

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Traveling to Germany soon? Consider buying a prepaid SIM card (e-SIM) for your trip if you can’t get international coverage through your current provider.  

This guide shows you options for using your phone in Germany, including different kinds of SIM cards you can buy before you leave and after arriving in Germany, so you can choose the best option for staying connected while on your trip.

cell phone navigation

Quick Answer: Best E-SIM For 2024

Having continuous data access on your phone while traveling is a must these days. We recommend getting an Airalo e-SIM before leaving for Germany. That way you can enjoy your trip without having to waste time trying to set up a SIM card in Germany.

Click here to check out Airalo e-SIM!

Do I Need A Pre-Paid SIM Card or E-SIM For My Trip To Germany?

When we first published this article, it was common to purchase a Germany SIM card after arriving in Germany. At that time, having a continuous connection to the internet while traveling was a nice to have and many people were happy to buy a pre-paid SIM card.

But these days, for most people, being able to use your phone on arrival – and the whole time while traveling in Germany – is a must.

Having a continuous internet connection is so helpful when trying to navigate to your hotel (whether in a rental car or on foot), check train or metro times, make a dinner reservation, call your hotel or text your Airbnb host, book a last-minute tour or skip-the-line ticket, etc.

And it’s a must if you have train tickets on your phone.

UPDATE: A lot has changed since we first published this article! Not only is having constant access to data a must for most people, e-SIMS are easy and popular to use. And many of our clients and Facebook group members have shared what’s worked and not worked for them in the past year.

That’s why we now recommend Airalo e-SIM. You do need an unlocked phone to use Airalo. If you do, you can get an e-sim for Germany (and other countries) here.

So, do you need a travel SIM card for your Germany trip? It depends. Today, buying a pre-paid SIM card is just one option.

Let’s Look At 3 Ways You Can Use Your Phone While in Germany:

1. Airplane mode + WiFi.

This is the easiest and cheapest option. And, of course, the most limited.

If you’re super prepared and organized before flying to Germany (and each day before leaving your hotel), and if you can make phone calls through Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp or other social media or service, you can probably get away with switching your phone to airplane mode and simply using WiFi at your hotel and here and there around the city.

The benefit of this option is that it’s free and easy. The downside is that it can be difficult to connect with WiFi outside of your hotel and you can’t make phone calls, get turn-by-turn directions or access any data.

IMPORTANT: If you’re using the Deutschland-Ticket or have your train tickets in the DB Navigator app on your phone, this option won’t work for you because you need to be able to access your tickets off WiFi anytime you’re on the train.

2. International plan through your cell phone company.

Depending on your provider, you can often pay an extra fee to use your phone while in Germany. The choice is often between paying per day or for a month for each phone you want connected while abroad.

The benefit of this option is that you can easily use your phone off WiFi, which means you can access train tickets in the DB Navigator app, check train and public transit schedules, call or text hotels or Airbnb hosts, and more.

The downsides? You’ll probably have to pay quite a bit over your typical monthly bill. And you often have to pay a fee for each phone you want connected. If you plan to pay per day and forget to switch your phone back to airplane mode, the fees can quickly add up. And some providers limit the amount or speed of data you can use abroad.

UPDATE: we switched to T-mobile several months ago and can now use our phones in Germany (and elsewhere) as soon as we walk off the plane. Since we’re currently nomadic it’s super convenient to pay one bill each month and be able to use our cell phone everywhere without incurring extra fees or buying SIM cards everywhere (we can still easily add an e-SIM if we wanted to, though). I wouldn’t switch to T-mobile just for a 2-week trip to Germany but if you’ve been thinking about switching, do it before you travel abroad!

3. Pre-paid SIM Card or E-SIM.

This option gives you consistant access to data, texting, and phone all over Germany, which means you can use Google maps, text or call family at home, check museum opening times while out and about, access train tickets, and more.

The benefits of using a pre-paid SIM card are that it’s likely much cheaper than using your home cell service abroad and you won’t get stuck without an internet connection or ability to text or make calls on your phone. You don’t need to get a new phone, and can even get unlimited data for the time you’re in Germany without a long-term mobile phone contract.

UPDATE: e-SIMs are a popular option these days and we now generally recommend an e-SIM over getting a SIM card after arriving in Germany. We’ve heard great things about Airalo e-SIM.

If you’re not sure which mobile internet option you want to use on your trip, join our Germany Travel Planning Facebook group (it’s free to join) so you can hear from us and other travelers about our/their experiences and recommendations. There have been several conversations about this topic!

And, by the way, the German word for cell phone is “Handy” – das Handy (the cell phone) or ein Handy (a cell phone). Yes, really!

cell phone use while traveling

We’ve used all 3 options while in Germany and elsewhere in Europe (and the world).

For many years when I traveled solo I often just used WiFi because I’m super prepared and organized before going abroad and I could easily get by with offline maps, prepared notes on my phone or in a notebook, and connecting to WiFi here and there when I’m away from my hotel or apartment.

I also used SIM cards a few times when I wanted to have consistent access to data but didn’t want to pay the expensive daily feels to Verizon. It took 10-15 minutes to sign up for the SIM card but after that, it was super easy.

There was no long-term mobile contract and it was cheap. With some plans, a couple weeks worth of data cost less than 1 day using Verizon’s international plan. I wasn’t sure how quickly I’d use the data so I kept my phone in airplane mode until I wanted to use data.

When Aaron and I traveled together by rental car we often went off airplane mode for a day here and there and just paid $10 to Verizon so we could use navigation on our phones and connect with our apartment hosts or hotel while on the road.

Using the daily international option from Verizon worked well for us most of the time. There were, however, a couple times where we followed the directions Verizon gave us for using our international plan and it just wouldn’t connect. On those days we were stuck with no internet access.

UPDATE: Several months ago we switched to T-mobile.

Now we can use our phones in Germany (and elsewhere) as soon as we walk off the plane and don’t have to pay any extra fees or get SIM cards (though we can use an e-SIM if we want to at some point). It’s SO convenient and if you’ve been thinking about switching to T-mobile, I highly recommend doing so before your trip to Germany.

cell phone and maps

Why Buy A SIM Card For Germany?

There are many benefits to buying an e-SIM or local SIM card before or while you’re visiting Germany. 

First of all, it can save you so much money. If you choose to just stick with your American mobile phone plan while abroad, chances are you’ll come home to a high phone bill.

That’s because EU roaming charges add up quickly and can get quite expensive, especially for longer stays. Not to mention that most of these overseas data roaming plans come with a lot of limitations. Most of them are capped at a certain GB, have limited internet speed, and sometimes you just can’t connect (that happened to us a few times when we had Verizon).

Second, using an e-SIM or local SIM card is much more reliable. Yes, you can often connect to public WiFi whenever you’re out and about, but you’re not guaranteed to find WiFi widely available in all establishments, and there have been times where I just couldn’t connect or the connection was so slow it was unusable.

If you quickly need to search for a restaurant review or look up the train schedule, having mobile data is much more handy. Plus, connecting to public WiFi isn’t always the safest option.

using cell phone

How To Buy A Pre-Paid SIM Card For Germany Before Your Trip

UPDATE: Many things have changed since we first published this article. We now recommend getting an e-SIM before leaving for Germany if you have an unlocked phone. Check out Airalo e-SIM.

There are many ways to buy a prepaid SIM card once you arrive in Germany. But if you prefer to order it before your arrival, you can order them online from the mobile providers’ official websites.

Keep in mind that you need to provide a valid ID and a valid German address, which is the standard procedure for buying SIM cards in the country. For the address, you can list down your accommodation and have it delivered there as well. You’ll more than likely also get a German phone number with your SIM card.

What To Look For In A SIM Card Plan

UPDATE: Many things have changed since we first published this article. We now recommend getting an e-SIM before leaving for Germany if you have an unlocked phone. Check out Airalo e-SIM.

There are three main mobile network providers in Germany: Telekom, Vodafone, and O2. There are also smaller mobile providers that use one of the main networks instead of having their own. 

Each offers their own prepaid SIM cards. Here are some things you should consider when deciding to buy a SIM card.

1. Coverage

This means 4G and 5G availability and coverage. Generally speaking, Telekom has the most extensive coverage and fastest network for both 4G and 5G. But the other two providers have good 4G/LTE availability as well so unless you’re staying in rural areas for long periods, you can’t go wrong with any.

2. Prepaid Plans

Each provider offers a variety of options and bundles that combine mobile data packages, text messages, and a certain number of free minutes for calls. Some include unlimited calls and/or texts. They come at different price points. It all really depends on your data usage and how long you’re staying.

3. Price

When you buy a prepaid SIM card, you’ll receive the card with a starting balance or credit. Once you activate the card, the balance is deducted according to the data package that you avail. For 3GB, you can expect to pay around 10 euros.

4. EU Roaming

If you’ll be traveling around Europe, make sure to check that your chosen SIM card offers EU roaming so you can still use it outside while traveling within the European Union or European Economic Area.

5. Mobile Reloading

Most networks should have an official app where you can top-up using international debit cards and credit cards. Aside from their stores, vouchers should be easily available in grocery stores, corner shops, and electronic shops.

cell phone

Best Pre-paid SIM Cards To Buy For Germany

UPDATE: Many things have changed since we first published this article. We now recommend getting an e-SIM before leaving for Germany if you have an unlocked phone. Check out Airalo e-SIM.

1. Telekom (Deutsche Telekom)

Telekom or Deutsche Telekom (also formerly T-Mobile) is the largest German mobile operator. Because of this, it’s proven to offer the best network performance and speed. However, compared to the other main networks, the prices of the different data plans are a bit higher. 

If you’re mostly in major cities like Berlin or Munich, then you’re probably better off with another SIM card since you’ll still have access to good coverage at lower prices. But if you’ll find yourself traveling or staying frequently in more rural areas of Germany, then the Telekom network is the best option and the most reliable.

They have two types of prepaid SIM cards available: MagentaMobil Prepaid and Data Prepaid (data-only). We recommend the former since it includes data, calls and SMS. At the time of writing this article, the starter SIM card for MagentaMobil is €9.95 and comes with €10 credit.

Here’s a list of Telekom’s prepaid plans:

PlanDataCalls and Texts (on-net)Price
Magenta Mobile Prepaid S500 MB Unlimited€4.95
Magenta Mobile Prepaid M3GB Unlimited€9.95
Magenta Mobile Prepaid L5GBUnlimited€14.95
Magenta Mobile Prepaid XL7GBUnlimited€24.95
Magenta Mobile Prepaid MaxUnlimitedUnlimited€99.95

All of the listed plans have a validity of 4 weeks. They all include EU roaming + data usage in Switzerland. 

Visit the official Telekom website for more information.

2. Vodafone Germany

Vodafone Germany is considered to be the mid-range option from the three main networks. They have pretty decent coverage throughout the country, though not to the same extent as Telekom. As a result, they do have data plans with similar amounts of GB of data as Telekom but at a better rate.

The Vodafone prepaid SIM card is called “CallYa” and at the time of writing this article the starter card goes for €9.95 with €10 credit. If you’re not ordering it online, it’s recommended that you go to their official stores or MediaMarkt. If you buy from other retailers, they might charge you a €10 registration fee.

Here is a list of Vodafone’s prepaid plans (subject to change):

PlanDataCalls and Texts (on-net)Price
CallYa Start1GBUnlimited€4.99
CallYa Allnet Flat S3GB Unlimited€9.99
CallYa Allnet Flat M6GBUnlimited€14.99
CallYa Digital15GBUnlimited€20.00

All of the listed plans have a validity of 4 weeks. They all include EU roaming.

Visit the official Vodafone website for more information.

3. O2

O2 is a rapidly growing and improving network that provides competitive data plans. It has fairly good coverage though a bit lacking in the countryside and more remote areas. It can also be prone to overcrowding in city or event hotspots. But it’s also the only network that covers 4G/LTE for all tunnels and stations of the U-bahn in Berlin.

At the time of writing this article, you can get the O2 starter SIM card (called O2 My Prepaid) for €10 with €9.99 credit. 

Here is a list of O2’s prepaid plans:

PlanDataCalls and Texts (on-net)Price
O2 My Prepaid Basic150MBN/A€1.99
O2 My Prepaid S3.5GB Unlimited€9.99
O2 My Prepaid M15GBUnlimited€14.99
O2 My Prepaid Max999GBUnlimited€69.99

All of the listed plans have a validity of 4 weeks. They all include EU roaming. Keep in mind that these plans only offer 4G/LTE Max.

Visit the official O2 website for more information.

4. Lidl Connect (on Vodafone)

Lidl is also another large supermarket chain and a competitor to Aldi. At the time of writing this article, their SIM starter card called Lidl Connect Talk is sold at €9.95 with €10 credit. They are powered by the Vodafone network so you can expect good coverage for budget-friendly prices.

Here is a list of Lidl Connect’s prepaid plans:

PlanDataCalls and Texts (on-net)Price
Smart XS1GB100 minutes / SMS€4.99
Smart S3GBUnlimited€7.99
Smart L6GBUnlimited€12.99
Smart XL12GBUnlimited€17.99

All of the listed plans have a validity of 4 weeks. They all include EU roaming. Keep in mind that these plans only offer 4G/LTE.

Similarly to Aldi Talk, you can reload at any Lidl chain nationwide or online. 

Visit the official Lidl Connect website for more information.

5. Aldi Talk (on O2)

Aldi is a major supermarket chain in Germany. At the time of writing this article, their SIM starter card Aldi Talk costs €9.99 with €10 credit. Keep in mind that they use O2 network so coverage is great in cities but not in rural areas. With all that being said, Aldi Talk has some of the best value plans in the market. 

Here is a list of Aldi Talk’s prepaid plans:

PlanDataCalls and Texts (on-net)Price
Paket S3GBUnlimited€7.99
Paket M6GB Unlimited€12.99
Paket L12GBUnlimited€17.99

All of the listed plans have a validity of 4 weeks. They all include EU roaming. Keep in mind that these plans only offer 4G/LTE.

Buying top-up credits is super convenient since you can do it in any Aldi supermarket nationwide or online.

Visit the official Aldi Talk website for more information.

arriving at airport

Where To Buy A SIM Card After Arriving In Germany

UPDATE: Many things have changed since we first published this article. We now recommend getting an e-SIM before leaving for Germany if you have an unlocked phone. Check out Airalo e-SIM.

There are different places where you can buy a SIM card once you land in Germany.

The first option that commonly comes to mind is the airport. Whether you’re coming in from Frankfurt Airport or Berlin Airport or any other airport in Germany, we don’t recommend doing this without prior research! You’re likely to find that they’re selling the same packages as the city but for double the price or even more. You may also be faced with very limited options. 

We recommend saving your money and waiting to get a SIM card in the city. You can easily buy SIM cards in phone stores (Telekom, Vodafone, O2), electronic shops (Mediamarkt), grocery stores (Lidl, Aldi), gas stations, and kiosks.

Look ahead of time at prices and locations. That way, if you see a good price at the airport you’ll know it’s a good price. And if it’s not a good price, you’ll feel good about waiting until you get into the city to get your SIM.

After buying your SIM card, you’ll need to activate it. You need these two things:

  • A valid official ID with your name and photo on it, such as your passport or national ID card. 
  • A valid German address (street name, house number, post code). You can use your accommodation’s address.

There are also different ways to activate your SIM card:

1. Registration In Store

If you buy your SIM card from a physical store of any of the three main providers (Telekom, Vodafone, O2), the vendors will register it for you upon presenting your documents.

2. Video Verification

Follow the instructions that come with your SIM card. You’ll be directed to an online platform where you have to present your ID and address through a video call.

3. PostIdent (in post offices)

You can go to a nearby post office that offers PostIdent services to present your passport and a specific print out form that you can find in the website of the operator.

Can I Use A German SIM Card Outside Of Germany?

Yes, you can use a German SIM card outside of Germany. All of the ones listed in this article offer EU roaming. We recommend you read the fine print to see if each particular provider has different rates for Switzerland and the UK.

Can I Use A SIM Card From Elsewhere in Europe In Germany?

Yes, it goes both ways. If you bought your SIM card from another country in Europe but they offer EU roaming, then you won’t have a problem.

We’ll be sharing our current experiences with German SIM cards in our Germany Travel Planning Facebook group so be sure to join the conversation there (it’s free to join)!

Image of Best Prepaid SIM Card for Germany guide

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Here’s how we can help you plan your perfect trip in 2024

GERMANY TRAVEL PLANNER: Just getting started? Have questions about Germany’s confusing train tickets or how to find the best guided tours? Not sure which parts of Germany should be in your itinerary (and what to leave out)? Our Germany Travel Planner answers those questions and more via how-to videos, our interactive Germany Planning Map, City Cheatsheets, and MUCH more. Click here to unlock the best of Germany the easy way!

GERMANY TRAVEL CONSULT: Feeling overwhelmed? Itinerary just not coming together? Wonder if a few tweaks would take your trip to the next level? Book a Mini or Full consult with Cate! She’ll help you create or tweak your itinerary, recommend train tickets/passes, hotels, things to do, guided tours, show you how to buy train tickets, orient you to specific cities, help you plan out day trips, and answer your Germany travel questions.

ACCOMMODATIONS: We recommend using since they have widest range of accommodations available from hostels, boutique hotels, luxury chains, aparthotels, at the best prices. Check out our accommodation guides for specific recommended hotels.

WHAT TO PACK: If you’re bringing your phone, be sure to bring this plug adapter, this power bank, and this wrist strap. They’ve been lifesavers for us! You can see our other packing essentials here and here.

TICKETS & TOURS: For guided tours, day trips, private tours, and skip-the-line tickets, Get Your Guide is our go-to!

TRAINS & BUSES: To research train schedules and buy tickets or a Germany Rail Pass, we recommend the official Deutsche Bahn (German Rail System) website (and download their DB Navigator app). For buses, look at FlixBus , which offers tickets for routes within Germany and to other European countries. FlixBus is often cheaper than trains but can take longer.


  1. I’m planning to visit Germany next month and was just told by Telekom (via chat) that they would not sell me a prepaid sim card upon arrival in Frankfurt with an American passport??

    1. I’d get an e-sim before you leave for Germany. For many people that’s the easiest option these days.

  2. John Koeller says:

    Ever since I signed up with T-Mobile over 20 years ago, I’ve traveled numerous times in Germany without doing anything! Since T-Mobile is a German company, coverage has been total, navigation has been superb, and I’ve NOT returned home to see my monthly bill having increased! No new SIM card was needed, just get off the plane, turn on the phone and use it as I would at home. No need for all the ‘extra work’ you describe to use my phone (and iPad).

    1. We switched to T-mobile several months ago when we become nomadic and we love it!! Super easy, works everywhere as soon as we step off the plane. A lot has changed since we first published this article and I just made some updates (with more coming).

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