How to watch BBC iPlayer from abroad

iPlayer abroad

Article Outline

Inside you’ll discover easy steps for accessing BBC iPlayer globally using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app. We provide VPN selection guidance based on expert testing and features such as speed, security, and privacy, ensuring a seamless and unrestricted streaming experience in any country.

BBC iPlayer is one of the most popular UK TV online streaming sites. It has reems of content, including movies, TV shows, box sets, live sports, news, and much more.

Unfortunately, if you want to watch BBC content on the BBC iPlayer outside the UK, there is a problem.

Like so many other online streaming services, if you try to stream BBC iPlayer shows from overseas, even if you have a BBC iPlayer account, you will find the BBC iPlayer’s geo-restrictions mean the service is blocked.

It doesn’t matter if you are just overseas on holiday, travelling for work, or living as an ex-pat. Watching BBC iPlayer abroad is simply not allowed.

Quick-Guide: How to watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK

  1. Sign up for ExpressVPN.
  2. Download and login to their app.
  3. Select the United Kingdom and press Connect.
  4. Open the BBC iPlayer app or visit the website and start watching.

If you have tried to watch BBC abroad on the BBC iPlayer streaming service, you will be familiar with the error message informing you that BBC iPlayer content is not available in your region.

I have lived as an ex-pat myself and know just how frustrating this is when you want to watch the latest episode of Eastenders or catch the news from back home.

But it’s not all bad news because there is a way to unblock BBC iPlayer content, access your BBC account, and enjoy your favourite shows and BBC services from anywhere in the world.

To unblock BBC iPlayer abroad, you’re going to need to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) app such as ExpressVPN.

A VPN App is primarily a security and privacy tool, but as we will explain in this guide, a quirk of how it works means that connecting to a VPN app can help you to watch BBC online no matter where in the world.

If you want to know how and also get the lowdown on the results of our extensive testing to reveal which are the best VPNs to use to watch BBC iPlayer abroad, all you have to do is keep on reading.

So keep scrolling to discover how to watch BBC iPlayer abroad from anywhere in the world.

A Video Explainer

How does a VPN app unblock iPlayer?

You can use a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer outside UK, but you might be wondering how a VPN helps. Well, here is the technical bit made simple just for you. But if you just want to know which BBC iPlayer VPNs you should go for, you can skip this section.

When you use BBC iPlayer via the BBC TV app or by visiting the BBC iPlayer website, one of the first things it does is check your internet connection for details of your real IP address.

Your IP Address is a bit of code that is transmitted with your internet data that gives information about your internet connection to the sites and services you visit.

Learn More

Discover more about what an IP address is.

Crucially, your IP Address includes details about your geographic location. When the BBC iPlayer sees that you’re outside of the UK, then it blocks you from watching all BBC iPlayer content.

So if you’re on the beach in Bali, a mountain in Switzerland or quaffing wine in the South of France, old Auntie knows.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) works in such a way that it allows you to disguise your location. A VPN encrypts your data and redirects it through an external server. That server can be located anywhere in the world and when you connect, it gives you an IP Address from that country.

So, by connecting your VPN to a UK server, you are getting a UK IP Address. And with a UK IP Address, you can unblock BBC iPlayer and watch BBC iPlayer content from anywhere in the world.

So that mountain you are up suddenly becomes London in the UK. Well, at least as far as BBC iPlayer is concerned.

How to choose the best VPN app for BBC iPlayer

VPN app in hand near TV

Way back in 2015, the BBC iPlayer decided to try and stop people from using this VPN ‘loophole’ and began to go out of its way to block a bunch of different VPN services.

Much like organisations as vast and well-funded Netflix, the BBC iPlayer techies found this a lot harder than they might have first thought.

Most, but not all VPN services work with BBC iPlayer again and have done for several years.

This is because the BBC iPlayer attempts to block VPNs have now essentially descended into a cat-and-mouse game where they identify and block VPN IP Addresses, and the VPN promptly launches new ones.

However, there are still lots of VPNs that can’t help you to unblock and watch BBC iPlayer outside UK. So, it’s still essential to choose one that does work; otherwise, you may as well go back to that wine because you won’t be watching any BBC iPlayer shows where you are anytime soon.

With the ability to stream high-quality video from a geo-restricted streaming service from anywhere in the world, you can watch BBC One, BBC News, and even access radio shows by connecting to a UK server when you use a VPN.

I have been testing VPNs while living abroad for many years now coupled with our 10 years experience here at VPNCompare, and my recommendation to watch BBC iPlayer outside UK is ExpressVPN.

I’ve tried and tested all the top VPNs and use many of them regularly. ExpressVPN is easy to use and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so it’s completely risk-free.

It has the best reviews, excellent customer service (with live chat), and great privacy features. To find out more, see our more detailed review of the top premium VPN services and the most reliable VPN service to use with the BBC iPlayer later in the article.

If you’ve got a bit of time in between cleaning sand out of your shoes and buying that bottle of alcohol that’s going to sit in the back of your cupboard undrunk for the next decade, then also check out NordVPN and CyberGhost VPN.

They’re two other good options to watch BBC iPlayer outside UK.

30-day money back guarantee

How to use a VPN to unblock BBC iPlayer outside the UK

To watch BBC iPlayer on an Android or iOS device, laptop, smart TV, or whichever streaming devices rock your boat is a lot easier than you might have feared.

Follow this simple step-by-step guide, and that’s literally all you have to do:

  1. Visit the ExpressVPN website and sign up. Their annual deal is the best offer and comes with a 49% discount and an extra 3 months for free.
  2. Then download their VPN app from their website. Or you can search your regular app store on your mobile device like the Google Play, Apple App or Amazon App Store for ExpressVPN.
  3. Open the VPN app, and the first time you’ll need to log in with your account details (email address/password) as set up during step 1.
  4. Then select your VPN server. To do this, click Selected Location then choose from your VPNs UK server list. Lastly, click Connect to connect to a British server. It should only take 15-30 seconds max for the app to get connected.

ExpressVPN connecting to the UK

  1. Once your VPN is connected, open your BBC iPlayer app or install BBC iPlayer onto your streaming device or visit the BBC iPlayer website and sign in to your free iPlayer account. If you don’t have a BBC account, you can sign up for free as long as you are connected to your VPN’s UK server. All you need is an email address and a UK postal code (such as SW1A 0AA) an confirm any requirements of the service itself.

With that, the BBC iPlayer’s now unblocked, and you’ll be able to watch all your favourite UK TV shows from abroad.

It may ask before you play a show if you have a TV license. Just click to confirm that you do have a UK TV licence. A UK TV licence is a legal requirement in the UK and you should answer honestly.

30-day money back guarantee

How do the VPN apps compare?

To watch BBC iPlayer outside UK, you need to make sure you have picked the right VPN.

We have tested all the top VPN’s and too many of them cannot unblock iPlayer, so it’s vital to choose the right one that can give you a British IP Address that the BBC iPlayer recognises and will accept.

These are the three VPNs that we recommend to watch BBC iPlayer outside UK. There are others that come with different benefits not available here, such as unlimited simultaneous connections. But in our tests, these three providers were head and shoulders above the rest:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN with iPlayer

Pros
  • Consistently fast connections – great for HD
  • Large network of reliable servers
  • Strong security and privacy protections
  • Can also unblock Netflix, Hulu and more
Cons
  • Only 5 simultaneous connections

ExpressVPN is our top recommendation if you want to watch BBC iPlayer abroad.

Its huge server network includes hundreds of UK servers that can unblock the iPlayer from anywhere, meaning UK residents abroad can still access their favourite BBC iPlayer content.

ExpressVPN’s fast and reliable speeds and its encryption and privacy settings are world-class, with 256-bit AES encryption used as standard and a no user logs guarantee. It comes with a range of features, including Smart DNS, DNS leak protection, a kill switch, and much more.

ExpressVPN has a range of apps for all your devices, meaning you can use BBC iPlayer on iOS devices, Android devices, a Smart TV, Android TV, and essentially anything that you can download the app to from either the Apple Store or the Google Play Store.

ExpressVPN allows up to five simultaneous connections with every account meaning you can watch BBC iPlayer content on your phone, your Smart TV, and any other device you have the BBC iPlayer app on at the same time.

It can unblock BBC iPlayer, along with the US & UK Netflix, Apple TV, Sky Go, Hulu, and other popular streaming services. If you want to watch iPlayer abroad, ExpressVPN is, quite simply, the best VPN for the job.

30-day money back guarantee

2. NordVPN

NordVPN with iPlayer

Pros
  • Unblocks BBC iPlayer from anywhere
  • Fast connections and downloading speeds
  • Strong encryption and privacy policies
  • User-friendly apps for almost any devices
Cons
  • Speeds don’t quite match some of its rivals

NordVPN is another good VPN option for streaming BBC iPlayer outside UK.

It also comes with fast connection speeds, ideal if you want to watch iPlayer abroad. You also get access to a large network of UK-based servers, secure 256-bit AES encryption, and a no user logs promise.

NordVPN’s apps are user-friendly and available for iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS and more. It can be installed into almost any device you care to mention, with a range of manual installation guides already available.

You can connect up to six devices at the same time, and there are a wealth of features for you to play with.

NordVPN can also unblock US and UK Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Sky Go, and many other streaming services, and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee as well.

3. CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost with iPlayer

Pros
  • Unblocks BBC iPlayer and most services
  • Strong encryption
  • No user logs guarantee
  • Beginner-friendly apps
Cons
  • Monthly subscription a bit pricey

Another good VPN service to access BBC iPlayer outside UK is CyberGhost VPN. This VPN has some of the best VPN apps around, and if you are new to VPNs, CyberGhost is a great place to start.

It has 256-bit AES encryption, and a no user logs guarantee that you can depend on.

Its recent expansion means it has a lot of UK servers to choose from now, and speeds are consistent and more than fast enough for streaming on BBC iPlayer.

It even now offers dedicated streaming servers ideal for unblocking BBC iPlayer and watching all your favourite shows.

CyberGhost also works with ITV Hub, Sky Go, Disney+, Hulu and a whole host of other streaming sites too. If you are a beginner to VPNs and watch to watch BBC iPlayer shows, CyberGhost VPN is a great option for you.

How can I watch BBC iPlayer on an Amazon Fire TV Stick?

If you want to watch BBC iPlayer on an Amazon Fire TV Stick then you’ll need to sign up to ExpressVPN.

They’re one of the only services that work with both iPlayer and the Fire TV Stick.

Once you’ve signed up for ExpressVPN download their app directly on your Amazon Fire TV Stick.

ExpressVPN Fire TV search

Then open it and connect to the United Kingdom.

You’ll then need to install either Silk Browser (‘Internet’ app) or Firefox and visit the BBC iPlayer website directly. It won’t work with the actual BBC iPlayer Fire TV Stick app.

If you want to use one of the other VPNs we have recommended to stream BBC iPlayer shows, you will need to use the popular Downloader App and download BBC iPlayer app separately.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are two possible ways to do this.

One involves adjusting some of your DNS settings. To do this, you will need to visit the network settings section of your console and manually adjust the device’s primary and secondary DNS (Domain Name Servers) numbers.

These numbers change fairly regularly, so you will need to take a look online to find the latest ones. These are usually fairly easy to find, but not always.

A much simpler way is to install your VPN onto your router directly.

This means that once your router is connected, all data from any devices using your Wi-Fi will also be redirected. This will include your Xbox or PlayStation and mean that you can enjoy the BBC iPlayer no matter where in the world you are.

In most cases, your home router won’t be suitable, so you will need to look to a special VPN router such as the Invizbox 2.

If you live in the UK, you can watch the BBC iPlayer on any device whenever you like. All you will need is a TV license and to register an account with the BBC.

To use BBC iPlayer, download the iPlayer app for free or visit BBC iPlayer website. Log in to your BBC iPlayer free account or set one up.

If you don’t live in the UK, you will need to use some sort of tool to watch BBC iPlayer app or website.

The best and easiest tool to do this is a VPN, giving you access to UK IP addresses which we described earlier in this guide.

You can watch BBC iPlayer on just about any device that has an internet browser and will be able to stream content from the BBC iPlayer. This includes smartphones (iOS, Android), tablets, computers, Smart TVs, Apple TV devices, games consoles, and more.

If you are outside the UK, you will either need to use a device that you can install your chosen VPN on to as well or have a VPN installed on your router to redirect content from all your devices via a UK server.

This is all to do with rights.

The BBC buys the rights to much of its BBC iPlayer library and sells the rights to its own shows overseas.

It doesn’t always hold the rights to show all of its BBC iPlayer library in other countries, so it is unable to make its BBC iPlayer streaming service available outside the UK.

It’s also currently funded exclusively by the British public through the TV license fee, although this is set to end in 2027.

Using a VPN to stream content from the BBC iPlayer does not breach any laws either in the UK or overseas.

But the BBC doesn’t like you doing it, so it is possible they could suspend or block your account if they spot you.

It could be against their Terms & Conditions, which could lead to an account closure.

We aren’t aware of this being implemented ever. But when you join BBC iPlayer, sign up to terms and conditions so it is always a possibility.

Ensure you have a TV license before viewing. Using a VPN is not an excuse to break the law.

Generally, people want to access things for free. I do myself if it is in any way possible.

However, if you want to watch BBC iPlayer from abroad, I always advise people of the old saying; “There is no such thing as a free lunch“.

Providing VPN services costs money to the companies who operate them, and if they’re not charging you for the service, then they’re making money from you in another way.

Many free VPN providers record what you do on the internet and sell it for marketing purposes to recoup the costs of providing the service. This defeats the whole purpose of having a VPN, really.

Many free VPN apps send data to China and there are plenty of other reasons why they’re dangerous.

There are various other risks with free VPNs, too, including malware, spyware, and some we have discovered that don’t actually bother to encrypt your data at all.

Throw in performance issues like data restrictions and limited server networks which can cause buffering when watching, and it is clear free VPNs are not worth the bother, especially when a premium VPN such as the ones we recommend only cost a few dollars a month.

Troubleshooting

99% of problems watching, even when connected to the VPN can be solved by opening your web browser in Inprivate or Incognito mode. You can find out more about how to launch an inprivate browser.

This content doesn’t seem to be working” – If you see this message, change the TV programme to watch something else first. Once it starts playing, you can switch back to your original programme.

If you still get the BBC iPlayer error message saying content is not available in your region, switch to another VPN server based in the UK and try again. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of goes to find one which works.

If the problem persists, all our recommended VPNs offer excellent live-chat customer support services, which will be more than happy to help.

Summary

Recap of Top VPNs for BBC iPlayer

If you want to watch BBC iPlayer outside UK, you will need a VPN service to do it.

There are a few VPNs that can do the job, but not all are up to it. We have tested all the best over the past ten years so you don’t have to, and narrowed it down to just the top three.

ExpressVPN is the best of the bunch for watching BBC iPlayer abroad. If you want to shop around, then we suggest NordVPN and CyberGhost are the other two to consider.

Both do a decent job, too, with NordVPN offering lots of extra features, while CyberGhost VPN is ideal for beginners.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a VPN for BBC iPlayer

But what exactly is it that you are looking for when choosing a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK?

We have tested watching BBC iPlayer everywhere and, based on our own personal experience, these are the key things to look for:

  • Able to unblock BBC iPlayer
  • Network of UK-based servers
  • Fast and reliable connection speeds
  • Apps for the devices you want to stream on

Our Top Pick for the Best VPN for BBC iPlayer

All of our recommended VPNs offer everything on that list. But it is ExpressVPN that offers the best all-around service. We have tested them all, and each and every one of the VPNs we have recommended does the job.

But none of the others do it quite as well as ExpressVPN. However, while we rate ExpressVPN the final choice is yours and you’re free to choose.

 

Ready to get a VPN? Try our recommended VPN service provider

  • Best in class for BBC iPlayer
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Beginner-friendly

Author: Christopher Seward

Having used the internet since 1994, Christopher launched one of the very first VPN comparison websites in 2013. An expert in the field his reviews, testing and knowledge have helped thousands of users get the correct VPN for their needs.

Comments

  1. JANICE VANBEEK

    “Once it’s connected open your BBC iPlayer app or visit the BBC iPlayer website.
    It’s now unblocked and you’ll be able to watch all your favourite UK TV shows from abroad.”
    Great. But how do i do that?!

    • Christopher Seward

      Hi Janice,

      Are you stuck at a certain part? If so let us know which.

      Alternatively you can follow the steps earlier in this guide.

  2. disappointedVPN

    This article, like all the others promising unblocking of iPlayer, Prime video etc. by ExpressVPN is a load of rubbish. It doesn’t have ‘hundreds of UK servers’ it has 4 and none of them unblock anything. I’m in Japan now in September 2022 and I can’t access any UK streaming services using ExpressVPN. Prime recognises you are on a VPN and blocks it. iPlayer the same. I fell for crap like this article. Luckily it has a 30 day money back guarantee, which I’ll be using and getting a refund. The only thing ExpressVPN is good at is flooding the internet with obviously paid reviews or having sites like this earn commission on sales by misleading reviews

    • Christopher Seward

      Hi “disappointedVPN”,

      Sorry to hear you can’t get it working but what you say isn’t entirely true.

      ExpressVPN has hundreds of UK servers. What you’re talking about is locations. In each of those four locations there are many multiple servers, that’s why you’ll be assigned a different IP address when connecting to the same city on more than one occasion.

      We’ve just double checked it with iPlayer and it’s working fine. Possibly something about your set-up is conflicting and you may not even be connected correctly. Amazon Prime is a different beast altogether and it’s very difficult to unblock, although it can be unblocked but is hit and miss.

      We don’t accept paid reviews but we do earn a commission on sales, this is made clear throughout our site.

      However, none of this is influenced directly by any of the providers we recommend, we test all services that we recommend and as such they’re currently working. However, as you can’t get it working and you’re getting a refund we would lose commission so it wouldn’t really benefit us to write things that aren’t true because you’ll simply get a refund.

      I do suggest you reach out to ExpressVPN’s customer support as they will be able to point you in the correct direction to get it working.

  3. disappointedVPN

    Hi Christopher,

    I’m happy to reply and update my situation. I did contact ExpressVPN support, they were very helpful and it seems there were some issues with my setup. They were knowledgeable. Everything now seems to be resolved, although I was still getting some issues with buffering and then being kicked off for being ‘outside of the UK’ on iPlayer. I will continue to test. Also happy to report that Prime was working. The issues may have been with Firefox which is my browser of choice. My backup of Brave browser was working fine.

    Thank you for clarifying the server vs location point.

    I apologise for my rudeness. There are a lot of similar reviews for ExpressVPN which all have these great deals and affiliate links. I wonder if many of them actually are physically abroad when they test the VPNs or if they just test inside the UK? I had no problems when I initially bought and tested it in the UK itself prior to leaving.

    As you were willing to publish my initial angry comment, I am happy to reply to set the record straight somewhat. I didn’t sign up to ExpressVPN via this site so you wouldn’t have lost any commission from me anyway.

    As it stands, albeit after just an hour or so of testing from really being in another country and trying to access streaming services back home I’m happy to eat my words. I hope this continues and I become veryHappyVPN.

    I’d also like to point out that whilst ExpressVPN does enable circumvention of geo restrictions, once back home in a couple of months I’ll have no need and it’s one of the more expensive VPNs when doing it month by month compared to taking out the year long deals.

    When I do return I’ll go back to using my long term choice of Mullvad. It’s 5 euros a month, whether you want to pay for one month or a whole year and it’s a great VPN if you don’t need to unblock anything.

    • Christopher Seward

      Hi “veryHappyVPN”,

      First off, thanks very much for taking the time to provide an updated report and I’m glad to see things mostly got resolved for you.

      No rudeness taken, I appreciate it can be frustrating and when you can only find positive reviews of a provider but your experience doesn’t match then it makes you start to question the legitimacy of those reviews.

      Sadly, there are plenty of fake reviews out there but generally over the 9 years we’ve been reviewing and testing providers ExpressVPN has rarely let us down.

      We totally agree about the price of ExpressVPN, it is expensive, especially when taking a monthly account and we try to highlight this in some of our other product comparison guides as a negative of their service.

      Mullvad is an excellent choice and one of the best for security conscious users. Is there a reason why you didn’t continue to use them while in Japan? Are they unsuitable for unblocking streaming services?

      Thanks again for taking the time to update your situation and enjoy your remaining time in Japan, please drink copious amounts of matcha on my behalf.

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