SIM card for student spending four months in Germany

Our son will be doing a semester abroad in Germany. He will be there with a half dozen other friends. He has an iPhone 5s (verizon). AS I understand the verizon iphone 5s has an unlocked GSM SIM slot by default so he is planning to use that phone when he gets there. My question is how to figure out the best option for him. he will be spending 95% of his time in Germany with occasional short trips out of the country. I anticipate he will use the phone primarily for calling and texting friends who are abroad with him. He will probably use some data when touring in country ( restaurants, train schedules etc) as well although he will have access to wifi on campus. He will probably use the phone to call home occasionally but I think he will probably use his computer and skype for this most of the time. Would like to obviously keep the cost as low as possible but as they are traveling in a group I'm not sure how much freedom they will have to go shopping for sim's as soon as they get to Germany so I am leaning a little bit towards pre-ordering something that can be delivered and set up here. We do have an older quadband phone with an international sim card form telstar that he could use in the beginning if he decides to buy the a sim card for the iphone over there. That card wont work in the iphone though

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

"I'm not sure how much freedom they will have to go shopping for sim's as soon as they get to Germany" It's as easy to buy a SIM card or phone in Germany as it is to buy food. Unless he needs to start texting within seconds of arriving, he'll have plenty of time. The easiest solution would likely be to just head to the nearest Vodafone store when he arrives and buy a pay-as-you-go phone. Cell phone contracts in Germany run for a minimum of 2 years, so a reloadable phone is likely his best option.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7682 posts

If his GSM slot is unlocked, all he has to do is pick up a SIM there. It's not the end of the world if he doesn't have use of a phone for a few days, but they are really everywhere. I'm sure he will somewhere in the first few days where he can buy one.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

michael, As the others have mentioned, it won't be difficult to find a Cell phone shop when your Son arrives in Germany. A PAYG plan will be the best option given the "limited four month residency". I don't have any details on PAYG plans that include data, but I'm sure Tom or one of the others can provide that information. Cheers!

Posted by John
Van Nuys, CA, USA
155 posts

Have him check with the folks running the program to see what they suggest/recommend. A friend recently got back from a semester overseas in Germany, and his program gave every student a SIM card when they arrived. They returned it when they came back home. So perhaps the program buys blocks of 2-year-contract SIM cards.

Posted by michael
glen head, ny, usa
8 posts

Thanks for all the suggestions. Thats very helpful. He will be spending most of his time in Bremen but its an engineering program so they will be taken several 2 day trips to factories around the country like Mercedes and BMW I think They also have a 3 day trip to Russia but I figured he will just have to do without a phone while he's there if necessary.

Posted by michael
glen head, ny, usa
8 posts

Thanks. Will most of the places set up the card for him? He doesn't really speak much German and I have read that the set up menus for the SIM cards are often in the local language. His iPhone5 is from Verizon so the GSM SIM card slot is unlocked by default. It is a nano sim card slot though. Will a nano sim be harder to find over there or are they common?

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

"Thanks. Will most of the places set up the card for him? He doesn't really speak much German and I have read that the set up menus for the SIM cards are often in the local language." Likely, but it's simply a matter of changing the default language settings. "It is a nano sim card slot though. Will a nano sim be harder to find over there or are they common?" I'm not 100% certain about this, but he should be able to get a pay-as-you-go nano SIM card.

Posted by michael
glen head, ny, usa
8 posts

Vodafone was mentioned above as a carrier to look into. Is there a reason for that choice? Do they have the best coverage, the best prices, easiest to recharge, or are there other carriers we should consider?

Posted by George
Canada
823 posts

Michael, there's a whole host of carriers in Germany - Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile, Blauworld, and a gadzillion sims that can be bought at grocery stores or drug stores. Nail down what it is PRECISELY that you need, and then go on line and look through the various providers. Check with his school and see if they have any suggestions? Get on it! As an aside, why isn't your son doing this legwork?

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

Vodafone has stores and kioks everywhere, and you can buy more minutes just about anywhere- grocery stores, convenience stores, petrol stations, etc. That's why I mentioned the company, mainly for the convenience of getting the SIM card/phone and the ease of buying more minutes. This is really a pretty easy issue that should take your son about 5 minutes to figure out once he arrives in Germany. Don't overthink or stress this. We're talking about, at most, maybe a €50 initial expenditure of money. He'll probably spend several times that amount in beer in his first weeks...

Posted by michael
glen head, ny, usa
8 posts

OK thx again. Not trying to over think it, just didn't want to get stuck with a $1,000 in charges because we didn't check into the options, especially since things work a bit different over there than we are used to. I'll just have him check into vodafone or one of the others when he gets there. He always has the old quadband phone for emergencies until he gets around to getting a sim card for the iPhone and skype will work for calls home. He has talk-a-tone on the phone too with google voice which I am guessing he can use if he finds wifi.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

It's easy- you prepay for the minutes, so the only surprises he'll get are if he runs out of credit in the middle of a call, or his minutes will get chewed up quicker if he uses the phone outside of Germany. As I mentioned before, pay-as-you-go is really his only option, because set service contracts are only available for a minimum of two years. The only way he could accrue a $1,000 bill would be if he continuously loaded his phone by credit card... and this would be virtually impossible to do by accident, because they sell minutes only in €15-25 increments.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
649 posts

We are in Munich now , and I bought a Lebara SIM card . I have used them in the UK and France with great ease. The card here in Germany was 10EU including 10EU credit . Calls back to the states are one cent per minute . Find them at tabak shops , easy way to go . Check out the website for further details . Vodaphone wanted 15EU for the card plus 35 EU top up . The cards are now dual format , depending on how you punch it out of the plastic carrier card , it is a regular SIM or a nano SIM .

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2695 posts

Hi, Where is he spending the semester in Germany? In which city? As a back up to the suggestions above, he could also get a 10 Euro phone card for either calling back to the US and within Germany. At the train stations Virgin Music is one place to buy phone cards as is the "ReiseBank." Also these phone cards are available at the post office. There you have to pay cash.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

Any phone that works in Germany should also function in Russia. He'll just pay a higher tarrif.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

michael, "Will a nano sim be harder to find over there or are they common?" European cell networks also sell the iPhone 5S, so they will certainly be able to provide Nano SIM cards. For example: www.vodafone.de/privat/handys/top-smartphones.html I'm sure any network that sells that model phone will offer Nano SIM's. Your Son will probably find that he'll be dealing with "younger" sales staff at the cell shops, and it's likely they will be able to speak English.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11274 posts

There are a proliferation of discount grocery store (Pennymarkt, Rewe, Lidl, more) in Germany, and they all sell their own brand of cell phone SIMs from T-Mobile (at half T-Mobiles price). You have to call a number to activate the SIM, but there will probably be someone on the other end who speaks English. Prices are very competitive (~9 Eurocent/min). See (in German): www.pennymobil.de
www.jamobil.de (Rewe) www.lidl.de/en/CLASSIC

Posted by Lee
Dallas
898 posts

T Mobile USA's new international plan might work for you and others with unlocked GSM phones. Beginning later this month TM won't charge its customers for data or text roaming in Europe and some other parts of the world. Phone calls will be just 20¢/minute. It's a month to month contract post-paid so it can be activated prior to a trip and cancelled afterward if so desired. We haven't had the chance to test it yet but will do so in the UK in December. Not having to go to a Carphone Warehouse there for a local SIM card will be a pleasant change from prior trips. T Mobile may be a bit more expensive an option compared to using local prepaid SIM cards depending upon the country or countries visited.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

I agree with the replies above that it won't be hard to get pay as you go service set up in Germany. But if you want to research your options beforehand, look at Prepaid GSM dot net. Here's their page of providers in Germany: http://www.prepaidgsm.net/en/germany.html And here's their Germany Forum (won't hotlink due to the ? in the URL): http://www.prepaidgsm.net/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=34 Be aware that discussions here can get VERY technical and detailed, so don't be afraid to ask for clarification. But right now, the top questions on that forum look just like yours, asking about nanoSIMs and data packages.

Posted by michael
glen head, ny, usa
8 posts

Thanks again. The additional suggestions here are very helpful

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7209 posts

Also, save money on your SIM by using Apple Face to Face or Skype for calls back to the states. Use the SIM for all your local calling within the country where you purchased the SIM.

Posted by michael
glen head, ny, usa
8 posts

On a side note has anyone here used Talkatone or any other similar app over in Europe? I realize that skype can be very useful but you have to catch the person when they are logged in. Talkatone with a google voice account allows you to use Wifi or data to call directly to a phone number. I have used it in the US with good results but wasn't sure how well it worked abroad

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8755 posts

Skype also works perfectly well when the person making the call (in Europe for example) can use a good wifi and is calling a landline in North America, or even a cell phone. Prices for that service are in the low pennies per minute. Yes, free if computer to computer, but it does work very well wifi to phone. I haven't heard of that other company, Talkatone.

Posted by michael
glen head, ny, usa
8 posts

Right, I know skype does have that premium service but Talkatone gives you the same option through google voice at no cost.