Calling a friend on the phone is straightforward once you’ve saved their number in your contacts, of course. But how does telephone numbering in Germany actually work? In this brief guide, we’ll explain how to dial a German phone number and how to break down a number.
Quick how to: Dialing German phone numbers
Any German phone number in its full format consists of three individual parts: the preceding country code for Germany, the number’s area code or prefix, and the personal phone number.
The German words for these are Ländervorwahl or Landesvorwahl, Ortsvorwahl or merely Vorwahl, and Rufnummer or Telefonnummer.
Consider the following, fictitious sample number:
+49 30 12345678
- The country code for Germany is +49. When calling from Germany, you can substitute the “+” with two zeroes as in “00”. The preceding zeros or how to dial a country code might differ in other parts of the world.
- The second part is a prefix, in this case an area code for Berlin. The complete area code for Berlin is “030”, but you drop the preceding zero after a country code.
- 1245678 is the actual phone number and unique to the network subscriber you want to reach. Note that with a few exceptions, there is no fixed length for phone numbers in Germany and the amount of digits can vary.
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Dialing internationally in Germany
You can always use the international format for calling from Germany, even when you’re calling another German number. There is no additional cost or other disadvantage. In fact, if you make it a habit of storing the numbers for your contacts in international format, you can always call them, regardless of where you are at the moment.
To place a call in the international format, dial the country code, in this case +49, followed by the prefix or area code with no preceding zero and then the phone number you want to reach. If you cannot dial “+” on your phone, use a double zero “00” in Germany.
Calling regionally in Germany
When you call from one German city to another, you can dial the number in the regional format. This saves you time inputting the individual digits and would typically be the case when you’re calling from a landline or one of the few remaining pay phones.
To place your call that way, you dial the full prefix or area code with a preceding zero followed by the personal phone number. In our example, you’d dial: 030 1245678.
Dialing local numbers
A local number is a number in the same area code or on the same network. In our example, you’d call a number in Berlin from Berlin and therefore just dial 1245678.
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Guide to German phone numbers
Germany has a so-called open telephone numbering plan. As we’ve outlined above, this means that neither prefixes nor phone numbers have a fixed length. However, new numbers issued since 2010 have a standard length of 11 digits including the area code without the trunk prefix, the preceding zero.
Area codes in Germany
The cities of Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich have two digit area codes: 30, 69, 40 and 89, respectively. The rest of Germany’s 5,200 area codes vary in length from three to five digits. Geographic area codes start with digits 02 to 09. You can therefore determine from an area code where within Germany a subscriber is located.
Because zero is the trunk code preceding area codes, prefixes and service numbers and because emergency numbers begin with 11, subscriber numbers do not start with 0 or 11. You can call a landline in the same area code without dialing the area code.
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Non-geographic German prefixes
Certain prefixes beginning with 01 do not designate an area code in Germany but rather a network or service. This includes prefixes for mobile networks, which are assigned prefixes such as 015xx, 016x and 017x.
You used to be able to tell the mobile network from the prefix, but since subscribers can choose to keep their mobile phone number even when switching providers, you have to manually check which number is registered to which cellular network.
The prefix 0137 is a special service where the operators expect a high number of connections in a short timespan, for example for polls and competitions or calls into TV and radio shows.
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Service numbers in German
- Phone services such as hotlines, call centres and customer service use the prefix 0180. The single digit 1-7 after the prefix informs callers of the rate.
- The prefix 032 looks like an area code, but is not tied to a specific location. Subscribers who do not want to disclose their location through their phone number or prefer nomadic use can obtain such a number.
- The prefix 0700 specifies a personal number for national subscribers. It is possible to personalise the number and therefore obtain a memorable number.
- The prefix 0800 is similar, except that it is free for the caller to dial such a number, which is why they’re commonly in use for hotlines or special services.
- The 0900 prefix designates premium rate services with personalised numbers. Information services use the prefix 09001, while entertainment services use 09003. Adult content services, so-called sex lines or party lines, and other services use 0900-5.
Calling emergency numbers in Germany
Emergency numbers in Germany do not require the preceding trunk code zero.
- To call the police in Germany, you dial 110.
- To call an ambulance, the fire department or emergency services, dial 112. This is the universal emergency number in Germany and in the European Union.
To learn more about emergency services and their respective phone numbers, read our guide on emergency calls and calling 911 in Germany and the EU.