Telephone, internet and post

Internet connections and mobile phones are a must today for students to communicate, do research and perform their tasks. But care and consideration are needed to negotiate the jungle of different rates and plans.

Telephone services

Today, almost all students in Germany have a smartphone. Many also use it at home and do without landlines. It usually makes sense for international students as well to buy a German SIM card. It allows to you communicate with your friends in Germany simply and inexpensively. With a foreign SIM card, you pay significantly more for text messages and calls inside Germany.

Mobile phones

There are two options for mobile phones: either signing a contract or buying a prepaid card. Contracts usually tie you down for a set period. You should definitely be aware of the minimum duration and read through the conditions very carefully. Part of the costs are a monthly basic fee. In return you often get an up-to-date smart phone relatively cheaply and can select a new device if you extend your contract.

Prepaid cards come with no contractual obligations, so you’re very flexible. You can purchase cards either with or without a phone, and you receive credits with which you can make calls, send text messages and surf the internet. Once your credit is used up, you can reload the card over the internet, by telephone or at supermarkets, drugstores and kiosks. If you spend a lot of time on the telephone or the internet, a flat rate is sensible. With that, you pay a fixed monthly sum that is unusually cheaper than individually billed fees. There are various online rate comparison platforms that can help you find the best offer. The student union can also give advice, and you can always ask other international students who make frequent calls abroad.

Students on the phone
Students on the phone© DAAD/Jan Zappner

Landlines

If you don’t exclusively use a smartphone to make calls, you can also order a home landline. Here, too, you can choose between multiple telephone companies with diverse offers. Usually, DSL connections come with internet and a flat rate, although international calls are sometimes excluded from the latter. For them, there are also special offers, and various websites can help you compare the different plans and fees.

Call by call numbers: Saving money on foreign calls

You can also save money on foreign calls by using special prefixes for landline calls. Before placing every call, you search out the cheapest provider. Not every telephone company, however, accepts these ‘call by call’ numbers. For that reason, it makes sense before you sign a contract to ask whether your prospective provider does so. You can find the cheapest call prefixes on the internet.

Cybercafés

If you don’t have your own phone, you should go to a cybercafe to make longer and, in particular, international phone calls. This – together with internet video calls – is often the cheapest option. There are many such cafés in all German cities that offer calling cards or special rates for cheap international calls. Public telephone booths are increasingly rare in Germany. There are some coin or credit card operated phones, particularly at airports, but making calls with them is quite expensive.

Student wraps letter
Student wraps letter© DAAD/Jan Zappner

Internet and postal services

Internet

In Germany you mostly connect your laptop or netbook with the internet via cable or wi-fi. If you don’t have a connection, you can order one and procure mobile service. For the former you usually need a landline telephone connection. You can find the cheapest offers on online comparison portals. There are a lot of mobile internet connection options, for example SIM cards or surf sticks, with or without contracts.

But you can also study in Germany without an internet connection of your own. Universities tend to have numerous workspaces, for example in libraries, with computers for general use. They can also be used to surf the web. Many colleges and universities also have campus-wide wi-fi. Students receive the necessary codes and passwords upon registration. Moreover, there are many cybercafés on German campuses where you can surf the internet cheaply.

Postal services

You can send letters and packages to other parts of Germany and to the entire world using the German postal company, Deutsche Post, and its parcel delivery subsidiary DHL. You can drop off packages for delivery at one of Germany’s many post offices – its logo is a black horn against a yellow backdrop. You can deposit smaller, stamped articles for delivery in the yellow post boxes located throughout German cities and towns. You will see on the post boxes when they are next scheduled to be emptied. Packages, large and small, can also be sent and received at so-called package stations.

You can find out how it costs to send a letter or package abroad in post offices or on the internet. The price depends on the size and weight of what you want to send and the destination country. Letters of up to 20 grams and postcards sent within Germany cost 80 and 60 cents respectively. Charges for larger letters and packages vary dramatically according to weight and destination. Stamps can be purchased from post offices, stamp machines and from the Deutsche Post website. You can find out how long a letter or package back home will take to deliver from the information concerning various countries provided by Deutsche Post.

Public transportation