Finding your way through the maze of various telephone connection possibilities in Germany is not always easy if you are an international student who is trying to get settled in at the beginning of your studies in Kaiserslautern. Here, we have put together some of the most important information you can use based on the experiences of previous international students. But you yourself still have to decide which option suits your needs best. Basically there are four ways of getting a telephone connection in Germany.
The installation of a landline telephone connection in your apartment is the most common procedure in Germany. This can be done with one of the biggest German telephone providers, for example "Telekom" or "Kabel Deutschland". In both cases, it is advisable to first check which telephone connection your previous tenant had (you should be able to find this out by asking your landlord) and maybe to continue using the same number, if is in your interest. All further steps will have to be arranged with the respective provider.
There are special numbers that you can dial to change the provider in order to reduce the charge per minute. Especially for calls abroad, they offer very cheap solutions.
The four main mobile phone providers are: t-mobile, o2 and Vodafone. The advantages of having a connection via mobile phone is that many providers offer the service of getting a landline connection in combination with a mobile phone (known as "home zone"). This "home zone" is assigned to your home address with a reach of some kilometers around it and thus makes the installation of a landline phone redundant. You are given an extra landline phone number in addition to the one for your mobile phone, this way other people can call you while only paying the regular tariff for landline connections. Once you go beyond your home zone, the tariff will switch to a mobile tariff, but you will be within reach all the time! Each mobile phone provider has its individual offers and tariffs, so you will have to check which offers are best for you. When inquiring about contract terms & conditions make sure you mention that you are a student; since most of them have special offers and tariffs for students.
In order to use Internet at home in general, benefit from the VoIP (Voice over Internet Phoning) service and communicate via various Instant Messenger services (Yahoo, Skype, ICQ, MSN, etc.), you can make a contract with Internet providers such as "t-online" or "Kabel Deutschland". Both providers offer you the possibility of having a combined telephone and Internet connection (individual telephone or Internet connection is also available, see above). There are different tariffs here, too, so be sure to get a good overview of all offers.
Concerning VoIP which allows you to dial a telephone number from your computer and to talk over the Internet, some providers still offer this service for free, yet most require you to register and charge fees (especially for international calls). In comparison, this is still cheaper than making calls from landline phones. There are some recharge vouchers, e.g., "U-Kash" which you can purchase in the refectory (Mensa) on Campus, at some gas stations and local shops near the train station.
Last but not least, there still is the option of buying pre-paid mobile phone cards from different providers (Vodafone, congstar, fonic, ALDItalk etc.) and recharging them. Furthermore, there are special international pre-paid cards you can use to call from your landline phone at home, from any public telephone booth, and even with cell phones (!!) – this may be cheaper for certain countries. These international prepaid cards can be bought at Asian shops or at the train station.
For all information about telephone, mobile, and Internet connections you should always pay attention that you understand all terms and conditions before signing a contract. To be on the safe side of communication problems, you might want to take somebody along with you who understands German well enough and can explain everything to you.
Your bills, correspondence and customer care will usually be in German. It is important to be aware of the terms of conditions (German: AGB) of your service agreement. Many phone and Internet contracts are only available with a minimum 2-year term, and also require that you cancel months in advance in order to avoid an automatic and binding contract extension.
It is difficult to make a general recommendation, but what most of the students prefer, is to have a combined landline and mobile phone for national calls and cheap prepaid cards for international calls .