How to buy a German sim card (2022)

Zorica Lončar

Travelling to Germany soon? Whether it’s a holiday or a longer trip, you’ll need to be able to use your smartphone.

Now that the UK has left the European Union, many UK mobile networks no longer guarantee free roaming within Europe. This could mean high charges for using your phone abroad.

So, it could be pretty handy to have a German sim card instead. You’ll be able to use the service of a German mobile network provider, swerve those roaming charges and use your phone throughout your trip.

But how do you go about buying a German sim card? We’ve put together a guide covering everything you need to know, including mobile network operators, sim card types and options for buying a sim card online.

And if you need a low-cost way to spend during your trip to Germany, check out the Wise international debit card. This offers low-cost spending and ATM withdrawals in 200+ countries, with your money automatically converted at the fairest exchange rate.

German sim card providers

The main mobile networks in Germany are Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica O2¹.

Between them, they have thousands of shops across the country, especially in major cities. Simply pop in to see which German sim card plans they have available, and to buy your new sim.

Take a look below for how to find a local store near where you’re staying:

You can also buy prepaid and pay as you go German sim cards at other shops, including Media Markt, Saturn, Aldi (selling Aldi Talk sim cards, which use the O2 network), Lebara Mobile and a number of other grocery stores and petrol stations².

Types of sim cards in Germany

Before you start shopping for sim cards, it can be useful to understand more about the type of sim cards available in Germany.

Prepaid sim cards

This is a bundle which typically includes data, calls and messages, with a set monthly price paid in advance. However, it’s not a contract, as the plan is typically flexible so you can cancel or switch at any time.

If you’re choosing a German sim card prepaid plan, take a close look at how much data is included. You’ll find that a German sim card with unlimited data can be very expensive.

Pay as you go sim cards

If you prefer things more flexible, a pay as you go German sim card could be the right option for you. It works just the same as in the UK, where you top up in advance and then use the credit for data, calls and messages. When you run out of credit, you’ll need to top up again.

Can I buy a German sim card at the airport?

Many German airports do sell sim cards, but you might find that they’re more expensive than elsewhere. Plus, there are likely to be only limited options available, as these are mainly German sim cards for tourists.

So it may be convenient to buy your sim card at the airport, but it comes at a price. It could be better to wait until you reach a city centre, or look into options for buying your sim card online before you travel.

Can I buy a German sim card online?

If you prefer not to have to visit a shop, there are a few options for buying a German sim card online.

Buying a sim card in advance

If you’re staying in the country for a while, you can order online and have your new sim card shipped to your accommodation.

You’ll need to follow a few steps to verify your identity - you can do this online or in person at a German post office³.

eSim cards

If you need your sim card right away, or your trip is short, you can buy an eSim card instead.

An eSim card works the same way as an ordinary sim card, but you don’t actually need the physical card. It’s a tiny chip (smaller than a sim) built into your phone. Not all phones have an eSim, but many newer models do.

Provided your device is equipped with an eSim, you can simply sign up for an eSim plan online. You might need to download an app to choose your location, package and activate your plan. Some eSim cards are data only, so don’t include calls or messages.

Providers of eSim plans in Germany include:

  • Airalo
  • SimOptions
  • O2
  • Holafly.

Some eSim providers offer international or Europe plans, which can be used in multiple countries. This makes them a popular choice for travellers who’ll be hopping between destinations. And if you’re looking for a German sim card for students studying or living abroad, this could be a better option.

Save on holiday spending with the Wise international debit card

Along with sorting your sim card, you’ll also need to find the cheapest way to spend during your time in Germany. Whether you’re holidaying, studying or living in Germany, the Wise debit card could be the ideal solution.

Open a free Wise multi-currency account online and you can get your hands on a Wise debit card for spending in 200+ countries. This clever contactless card automatically converts your GBP to EUR at the mid-market exchange rate whenever you spend. There’s just a small conversion fee to pay, or it’s free if you already have EUR in your account.

Plus, you can withdraw up to £200 in cash from German ATMs a month - for free. And it works with Google Pay and Apple Pay too.

Use the Wise debit card for your overseas spending and you can say goodbye to changing currency and carrying cash around. It’s easy, convenient and could save you a bundle.

Join Wise today

Sources used for this article:

  1. Statista - providers in Germany
  2. Eurocheapo - best sim cards in Germany
  3. - prepaid tariffs

Sources checked on 27-Jul-2022.

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Money for here, there and everywhere

Find out more
Travel Tips

Berlin Pride 2023

If you’re planning to visit the vibrant capital of Germany, you should definitely go around Pride time. Berlin has long been at the forefront of LGBTQIA+...

Tommy Buckley
28.06.23 5 minute read

Tips, news and updates for your location