If you're outside of the UK, chances are you'll run into trouble accessing BBC iPlayer, the BBC's online streaming service. It's a frustrating problem, but there is a workaround; here, we show you how to watch BBC iPlayer when travelling abroad.
iPlayer is one of the biggest streaming services in the UK, offering a range of high-quality television both live and on demand across popular channels including BBC One and CBeebies, radio shows and feature films, direct from the BBC, entirely free from advertising.
The shame is that it's limited to UK viewers, and - in principle - you can only watch it from inside the UK. Funded by a licence fee, UK TV 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 might want to be able to watch BBC iPlayer when overseas in countries including Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, Spain, Italy and more.
Hit shows including Eastenders, Strictly Come Dancing, The Apprentice and more are available to watch live and on demand on BBC iPlayer, and many will be sad to miss an episode or two while they're away from the UK.
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 follow to access BBC iPlayer on your iPhone, iPad or Mac if you're outside of the UK. This will also work on a PC, and on Android devices too.
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 - though in practice it's unlikely.
- You'll need a subscription to a VPN We'd recommend NordVPN or ExpressVPN, but you can find our whole top ten in our round-up of the best VPNs.
- Download your VPN app of choice on 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 to watch iPlayer with a VPN
Just as Netflix dominates US traffic, BBC iPlayer dominates in the UK, with up to six percent 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 iPlayer on your Mac or PC, it checks your public IP (Internet Protocol) address. This address is a four-part number, such as 22.214.171.124 (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 iPlayer's servers, you log into the VPN, and that connects using a British IP address, letting you access all the iPlayer content you normally would.
As mentioned, this breaks the terms and conditions of BBC iPlayer so you should go ahead at your own risk.
Here are some of the best VPN services for BBC iPlayer, in our experience. All of these have apps for both Mac and iOS, so you can use them to watch from just about any Apple device.
If you want to watch from Apple's set-top box it's a little trickier, but we have a dedicated guide to using a VPN with the Apple TV that should help.
NordVPN: This service is top of the pile; it offers a complete VPN service with the best security and privacy settings we have seen at a fair price. 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. Sign up here.
Surfshark: This is the best value VPN on our list, but it offers fewer servers than NordVPN and ExpressVPN. That shouldn't cause much of an issue for general iPlayer streaming, though. Sign up here.
You might also like to find out how to get American Netflix in the UK.