Germany is an exciting destination for any traveller, and your upcoming trip will surely be an adventure!
From bustling Berlin to the quaint charms of Cologne, Germany offers something for everyone.
Take in as much of Germany's culture as possible - think Bavarian beer halls, thrilling amusement parks, world-famous architecture, and scenic local parks. Germany also makes it easy to get around with reliable public transportation systems.
But there's one thing you'll need to make all this happen.
It's your closest friend and lifeline to the rest of the world. Without it, you'd be as lost as a goose in a hailstorm.
But what mobile carrier should you use? Which data plan is the best value? What is an eSIM? How the heck do you set it up?
All very good questions.
To save you time and money, I've done the legwork for you. Here's everything you need to know about choosing an eSIM in Germany.
Mobile Carriers That Support eSIM in Germany
Fortunately, technology has come a long way in the last decade. Old-style physical SIM cards are giving way to eSIMs in Germany. This is a dream for frequent travellers who are used to switching physical SIM cards in each new country.
But, like any new technology, it takes time for everyone to get on board.
And while mobile carriers in Germany are offering eSIMs, they mostly focus on local residents – not data plans for tourists. Short-term visitors, like you, don’t want lock-in contracts and bureaucratic purchase processes.
The dream hasn’t quite transitioned to reality.
So, I’ll start off with the major carriers you want to avoid:
Telekom (formerly T-Mobile, and a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom): This was the first (and for a long time, only) German carrier offering prepaid eSIMs. However, the purchase process is time-consuming and convoluted. It’s simply not worth your time as a tourist. You’ve got better things to do with your limited time on vacation.
Vodafone: They recently started offering prepaid eSIMs in Germany. However, an in-depth identification verification process is required – either done in person at a German post office or via a video call (during specific operating hours). Depending on the registration method, activation can take up to 24 hours.
O2 Germany (Telefónica Germany): They only offer eSIM on long-term contract plans, not prepaid.
But it’s not all gloom and grey clouds.
There are good carriers too. These international travel eSIMs are designed for travellers like you. They utilise German mobile networks, but take care of the eSIM tech, plans, billing, and support, and there are no annoying KYC (Know Your Customer) ID checks.
The best option is:
Holafly– In addition to Germany, they have eSIMs for many other regions and countries such as Europe, Asia, North America, South America, and United Kingdom. Holafly uses the Telekom network, the best network in Germany for coverage and speed.
Tip: Most international eSIM providers only connect to a network as a “roaming” user, not “native”. This means browsing speeds won’t be quite as fast as if you went direct with Telekom Germany, for example. But weight up convenience and flexibility, international eSIMs are still a better choice.
Comparing eSIM Plans in Germany
The right eSIM plan will depend on your device usage patterns and budget. Sometimes it pays to choose a plan that might cost a little more but gives a lot more peace of mind and flexibility. You’ve already spent hundreds (maybe even thousands) of dollars on this trip to Germany, so don’t cut corners on your lifeline.
And while you can sometimes purchase German prepaid eSIMs in stores, malls or airports, I recommend having your eSIM ready for action before you step onto the plane. That way, when you land, you can start using it immediately instead of foraging for a store like a squirrel in spring.
Recommended eSIM plan:
- Data limit: Unlimited (no fair usage policy!)
- Includes: data only
- Compatible with: iOS and Android
- Hotspot tethering: no for most locations, as of June 2022 due to unlimited plans (see FAQ)
5 days, unlimited: $19
10 days, unlimited: $34
15 days, unlimited: $47
20 days, unlimited: $54
30 days, unlimited: $64
60 days, unlimited: $84
90 days, unlimited: $99
Holafly’s unlimited data allowance is a game-changer in the travel eSIM industry. And the longer your plan, the cheaper the daily rate (down to $1.10/day for 90 days). They also have Europe-wide plans available.
Comment: For maximum peace of mind and flexibility, it’s hard to beat Holafly’s unlimited data. Watch movies, and scroll your social media feed without anxiety. You can still make voice calls and send texts via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Viber, Telegram, Signal, or your preferred IM app.
Discount: Save 5% on Holafly's eSIMs with our exclusive code "TRAVELWITHBENDER".
Where to Buy an eSIM in Germany
If you want to tempt fate and purchase a Germany eSIM after you land, these can be found at airports, malls, and carrier stores. Keep in mind that there may be ID requirements, which could involve providing a passport, and having a local address or phone number.
To be blunt, it’s just easier to buy eSIM for Germany online with Holafly. You’ve got better things to do with your time than try to work out the ins and outs of German telco bureaucracy. Simply follow the usual online checkout steps and you’ll receive a QR code via email. Scan that with your phone, and you’re all set.
Which Smartphones are Compatible with eSIM
You’re probably thinking, OK Josh, I’m super excited about eSIMs but will my phone support it?
Very good question.
The list of devices that support eSIM is growing regularly. Take a look at this page for a complete list of phone, tablet, and laptop models that support eSIMs.
The first smartphone models that supported eSIM were Google Pixel 2, iPhone XS/XR, and Samsung Galaxy S20. iPhone 13 and 14 support 2 active eSIMs simultaneously, whereas most others support just 1. If you bought a fancy new iPhone 14 in the US, it ONLY supports eSIM.
Almost all of these devices support “dual SIM”, so you can either have multiple physical SIM cards or 1 physical plus at least 1 eSIM. Check the manufacturer’s specs for further details.
Essential Tips for Germany eSIM Users
Before you jump onto the eSIM train, here are a few final tips to make your journey smoother.
Your Phone Must Be Unlocked
This will affect mostly travellers from Australia and New Zealand, where mobile carriers “lock” a device to their network if it’s purchased on an instalment plan. In the US, some carriers also lock a device, but are required by law to unlock it when requested by a customer. However, the amount of time they take is anyone’s guess, so it’s best to sort this out well before departure. Here are instructions to find out if your device is locked.
German carriers have strict identity checks when purchasing physical SIM cards and eSIMs. This is aimed to discourage and restrict potential terrorists and individuals associated with organised crime. However, for tourists, it’s a significant inconvenience. Be sure to have your passport handy when going shopping. Otherwise, if you choose a reputable international eSIM provider like Holafly, no ID check is necessary.
Bring a USB Power Bank
When you’re sightseeing all day, using your phone for navigating, finding restaurants, tracking down public transport, and capturing memorable videos there’s a good chance your phone will run low on juice. Pack a trusty power bank with a capacity of at least 10,000 mAh (and a USB cable too).
Download Offline Maps in Google Maps
My favourite map app, CityMapper, currently supports Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne, Hanover, Nuremberg, and Stuttgart. I also recommend installing Google Maps (if, for some reason, it’s not on your phone). To avoid any potential hassles, download the current city map for offline use. Here’s a video that explains the steps:
Make Phone Calls Over Wifi
I can’t remember the last time I made a “regular” phone call or sent an SMS on my smartphone. Most international eSIM providers provide data only. That’s fine, as long as you use Whatsapp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, or Signal for voice calls and text. If you’re still one of those people holding onto traditional voice calls and SMS, it’s time to move into the future!
The Bottom Line
It’s mind-boggling to think how a chip only 6x5mm in size, hidden inside your phone, can hugely affect your upcoming international trip.
Choosing the right eSIM provider in Germany will become almost invisible – you won’t even think about it because everything just works so smoothly. But if you try to cut corners with your all-important lifeline, well… you’ll only have yourself to blame.
Discount: Save 5% on Holafly's eSIMs with our exclusive code "TRAVELWITHBENDER".