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Telephone: How to keep a low phone bill in Germany

With a German SIM card, you can phone your friends and fellow students inexpensively. You can either sign a phone contract or purchase a pre-paid card. If you want to use a landline, you will have to sign a contract with a phone company. Pay attention to the duration of your contract. There are reasonable offers available to students – and it always pays off to compare prices.

by the Editors

Student with a smartphone © DAAD
Student with a smartphone . © DAAD

Mobiles and smart phones

Almost every student in Germany has a mobile or smart phone. Some even prefer to use their mobiles from home instead of a landline. For most international students, it makes sense to purchase a mobile phone card from a German provider. Keeping in contact with friends and acquaintances in Germany is easier and less expensive that way. If you use a foreign mobile phone card in Germany, you will have to pay much higher rates for texting and making calls.

Smart phone © TU Bergakademie Freiberg
Smart phone . © TU Bergakademie Freiberg

There are basically two ways to get a mobile or smart phone in Germany. You can either sign up for a mobile phone contract or purchase a prepaid card. With a contract, you agree to become a customer for a certain period of time. Make sure you know how long the contract runs. Usually such contracts come with a monthly base fee. In return, the provider supplies you with the latest smart phone for a small fee. And if you wish to prolong the contract, you can replace your old phone with a new model. If you decide to sign a mobile phone contract, make sure you understand the conditions and rates – and don’t forget to read the fine print. It can be worth looking into special rates for students.

With prepaid cards, on the other hand, you have no contractual obligations and much more flexibility. You can buy them with or without a mobile. When you buy a prepaid card, you receive a certain amount of credit which is debited every time you phone, text or surf the Internet. When your card is empty, you can either purchase more credit online or buy another card at a supermarket, drugstore or kiosk.

If you phone or surf the web frequently, you should think about getting a flat rate – a fixed price per month which is usually cheaper than paying for each call separately. There are several websites that can help you compare offers. You can obtain further information from your student council, or simply ask other foreign students who also make lots of international calls.

Landlines

If you don’t want to rely solely on your mobile or smart phone, you can get your own landline connection at home. Landline service is offered by numerous phone companies at various prices. If you decide to get a landline, you have no choice but to sign a contract with the phone company. Most landlines come with an Internet connection and a flat rate. However, international calls are usually not included in this fixed rate. There are special plans which include service to specific countries. In any case, you should carefully compare prices and offers. Several websites exist which can help you find the best offers.

Students with mobile phone © DAAD
Students with mobile phone . © DAAD

Call-by-call

In addition to video calls via Internet, a very simple way to save money on international calls is to use call-by-call numbers. These are dialling codes which allow you to take advantage of especially inexpensive providers even when you have a telephone contract with another company. Before making a call, you simply choose the least expensive provider and dial its code. However, not every telephone company recognises call-by-call numbers. Before registering for a landline, ask the telephone company whether call-by-call is possible. Check out the internet to compare the least expensive call-by-call offers currently available.

Public telephones are getting harder to find in Germany. Coin-operated phones still exist, as well as phones which accept credit cards – usually at airports. Keep in mind that public telephones are quite expensive. If you don’t have your own phone and need to make longer calls or international calls, we recommend going to a telephone café. There are many telephone cafés in every German city. There you can purchase phone cards or take advantage of special rates when making international calls.