Want to watch BBC iPlayer abroad? If you're on holiday outside the UK you'll run into trouble accessing the BBC's online streaming service, but here we show you how to watch BBC iPlayer abroad.

BBC iPlayer is UK's premier streaming service, offering a range of high-quality television and radio shows, plus movies, direct from the BBC, entirely free from advertising.

The shame is that BBC iPlayer is limited to UK viewers, and - in principle - you can only watch it from inside the UK. Funded by a licence fee, UK television-set owners pay for the BBC; so it makes sense to limit BBC iPlayer to UK viewers.

But what about holidaymakers and those with homes in two countries? If you've paid for it, then you should be able to watch BBC iPlayer when overseas.

You need a TV licence to watch on-demand content on the iPlayer. Previously, you only needed a licence to watch TV being broadcast live, but now the rule change means all iPlayer content requires you to pay up. Our sister title Tech Advisor explains here: Do I need a TV licence?

How to get BBC iPlayer abroad

Here's a quick rundown of the steps you'll need to take to get BBC iPlayer on your iPhone, iPad or Mac if you're outside of the UK. This will also work on a PC.

Be aware though, this breaks the terms and conditions of BBC iPlayer so you should go ahead at your own risk. You're not going to get fined or arrested, but you could have your account suspended.

  • You'll need a subscription to a VPN. Our favourites are NordVPN and ExpressVPN but you can find our top ten in our round-up of the best VPNs here. Hidden24 is also a good option for BBC iPlayer.
  • Download the VPN app for your Mac, iPhone or iPad.
  • Log in.
  • Choose a server based in the UK.
  • Browse to BBC iPlayer and log in.
  • You should now find that you are able to access BBC iPlayer content.

How a VPN works

Just as Netflix dominates US traffic, BBC iPlayer dominates in the UK, with up to 6 per cent of all our internet traffic going the BBC. So you lot apparently love it. But you can't watch the BBC while you're overseas.

When you open the BBC iPlayer app on your iOS device or log on to BBC iPlayer on your Mac or PC, it checks your public IP (Internet Protocol) address. This address is a four-digit number, such as (a quick way to find yours is by typing "IP Address" into Google).

This figure relates to your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or cellular connection, linked to the server that is sending you data. Enter the digits into IP Location and you'll find where the server is located as well as the host.

If this location isn't in the UK, then BBC iPlayer will refuse to show you content.

To use BBC iPlayer abroad, you need to convince the BBC that you're using an IP address based in the UK.

Don't worry - this is a lot easier than you think, thanks to VPNs (or virtual private networks). Instead of connecting directly to the BBC, you log into the VPN, and that connects to the BBC and sends you the video.

Be aware though, this breaks the terms and conditions of BBC iPlayer so you should go ahead at your own risk. You're not going to get fined or arrested, but you could have your account suspended.

Here are some of the best VPN services for BBC iPlayer, in our experience:

NordVPN. This service is top of the pile; it offers a complete VPN service with the best security and privacy settings we have seen. Your data is encrypted so you can surf worry-free wherever. Not only can you access iPlayer abroad with it, but you can also benefit from services such as secure online banking when on public Wi-Fi hotspots. It costs from as little as £2/US$2.75 per month. Sign up here.

ExpressVPN. Another of our favourite VPN services with top security and privacy features and simple-to-use apps. It's available for around £5/$6.67 per month. Sign up here.

Hidden24. Hidden24 currently only offers UK servers, but that's fine if you just want to use it for BBC iPlayer. It's a very minimalist VPN that you'll find won't intrude at all with your experience of using your Mac, iPhone or iPad. You won't even notice it's there. It's available for as little as £3.33 per month. Sign up here.

You might also like to find out how to get American Netflix in the UK