If you often call friends and family in a specific country, you should consider booking a flat rate for international calls. Customers subscribing to Deutsche Telekom's services have access to two different flat-rates. The "CountryFlat" is 3.95 euros per month and allows you to call landlines in 25 different countries at no additional cost (Great Britain, USA, Australia and most other European countries are included). The "CountryFlat II" is 14.95 euros per month and includes Turkey, Russia, eastern Europe, China, Japan, etc. If you plan on calling home a lot, having an international flat-rate is probably a good idea. It all of course depends on where you are calling and how often you call. Once again, the other telecommunication providers have similar flat-rates on offer, at slightly better rates.
International Prepaid Cards
If you want to use your cell phone to make international calls, another option is to sign up with a prepaid discounter. There are several companies which offer low rates for international calls to and from Germany. To use these services, however, your cell phone cannot have a SIM card lock. If you have had your phone for over two years, the SIM lock can be removed free of charge. If you have had your phone less than two years, you must ask your current provider about the cost of removing the SIM lock. One provider that offers low international rates is Ortel Mobile. For more information, check out their website at www.ortelmobile.de
A funny advertisement once summed up the mobile phone landscape in Germany. Two men stood behind stacks and stacks of paper on a desk. One looked at the other and said, "So, you want to choose a cell-phone provider?" They began shuffling the hundreds of pages and throwing them over their heads behind them. The other replied, "Fine. Read all this." The moral of the story is this: shop and inform yourself, but don't overdo it.
One of the best ways to begin getting an overview is to go to a telecommunications shop that offers more than one service provider. These are stand-alone shops in retail areas or shops inside other shops. For instance, big electronics stores will have a booth inside where you can order phone services from several providers. Beware of offers that entice you to sign a contract with a snazzy new phone for 1 euro. The providers will inevitably recoup the handset price through higher monthly fees, higher prices per minute and a two-year contract. If you are willing to do without a subsidized cell phone, you can also purchase a pre-paid card either from one of the providers or from a so-called discounter (supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl, or through the Internet www.simyo.de or www.callmobile.de). The latter offer rock-bottom prices such as 8-cents-a-minute calls. This is often the fastest and cheapest way to get mobile phone service in Germany.
If you are traveling outside Germany often, check with your service provider about roaming charges. Roaming charges vary from country to country, and you can be charged for incoming calls. You can even be charged when you receive messages. A surprise phone bill can spoil the memories of an otherwise nice trip...
Thankfully, the EU recently passed legislation to limit inner EU roaming charges to 35 cents per minute for making a call and 11 cents per minute for receiving one (plus VAT). Sending a SMS costs 11 cents and it's free to receive one. Roaming charges also apply to internet connectivity, meaning that it will cost more to use the internet-based features of your smart phone when traveling. The EU, however, has also mandated an automatic cutoff if your data transfer is more than 50 euros in one month.
English Services with TKS
Obtaining just the right phone and Internet services for your needs, at the right price, may often prove to be somewhat challenging with your typical German telecommunication company. You will find that "foreign language" support and customer service, meaning English, can be a rare and possibly nonexistent commodity. This is where TKS Telepost Kabel-Service Kaiserslautern (TKS) steps in as an alternative. TKS has provided service to the US military for over 15 years, specializing in a full range of cost effective and easy-to-use English telephone and Internet solutions. Amenities such as customer care, official correspondence, billing, technical support, and reference guides - all in English - are standard features with TKS. Private individuals as well as relocation firms and human resource offices can contact TKS for a personalized consultation and to request service. Orders can be processed by phone or e-mail. For more information visit the TKS website at www.tkscable.com.