How to Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad [Free and Paid Ways]

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BBC iPlayer has a catalogue of iconic British TV shows, however, due to their licensing agreements, you’ll notice that the service doesn’t work natively unless you are in the UK. So, how can you watch iPlayer abroad?

There are several ways to watch iPlayer abroad including downloading shows before you go, purchasing select BBC shows from YouTube, or using a VPN to unblock BBC iPlayer as if you were still in the UK.

Keep reading to find out more about each of these methods, including how to set up a VPN and which shows you can watch without a VPN.

How to Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad (on Phones, Tablets, and Laptops)

The best way to watch iPlayer abroad is to use a virtual private network (VPN). This will route your connection through a server in the UK which will unblock BBC iPlayer as if you were in the UK yourself.

Not all VPNs are compatible with BBC iPlayer and you’ll need to ensure your plan has UK servers.

I recommend using Express VPN because it’s affordable, reliable, and has solutions for all your devices including phones, laptops, smart TVs, and streaming sticks.

To watch BBC iPlayer abroad on a laptop:

  1. Sign up to Express VPN using their website.
  2. Once you have signed up, choose the ‘Download’ button from the dashboard.
  3. Choose from Windows, Mac, or Chromebook to initiate the download. Keep the tab open as you’ll need the activation code later.
  4. Click on the download and follow the instructions to install Express VPN.
  5. When the install is complete, you’ll be prompted to enter the activation code from the tab you kept open. You can copy and paste this instead of typing it out.
  6. Once setup is complete, the Express VPN app will launch. Before connecting, you’ll need to select a UK server because this is the only one that will work with iPlayer. Click the ‘Connect’ icon.
  7. When you see a ‘Connected’ message, you’re ready to go. Head to iPlayer in your browser and it should work as if you are in the UK.

To watch BBC iPlayer abroad on a phone or tablet:

  1. Sign up to Express VPN using their website.
  2. On your phone or tablet, head to the App Store (iOS) or the Google Play Store (Android) and find the Express VPN app.
  3. Follow the instructions to install it and sign in with your credentials.
  4. You’ll be prompted to allow Express VPN to set up a VPN connection, you should allow this.
  5. Next, you should choose a UK server as this is required to access BBC iPlayer from abroad. Now tap the ‘Connect’ icon.
  6. Once you see the ‘Connected’ message, head to the iPlayer app and it should function as normal.

I recommend Express VPN, but other VPNs that work with BBC iPlayer include Nord VPN and SurfShark. More on the differences between these in the next section.


What’s the Best VPN for BBC iPlayer?

Here is a rundown of the best VPNs that work with BBC iPlayer:

  • Express VPN – This is the best VPN for BBC iPlayer because it is fast and can be configured to work on almost any device. For devices where it doesn’t work natively, you can install it on a compatible router as a workaround.
  • Nord VPN – Nord VPN is extremely fast for iPlayer and has a 30-day moneyback guarantee for peace of mind so you can check it works. However, it’s a little more expensive.
  • SurfShark – Surfshark is cheaper and faster than both of the above services, however, it’s not my top pick for iPlayer because it works across fewer devices than Express VPN.

Troubleshooting: BBC iPlayer Not Working with VPN

Watching BBC iPlayer abroad using a VPN is against their terms of service and they have taken steps to try and reduce the practice. If it’s not working for you, try some of these steps to resolve the problem:

  • Ensure you use one of the above VPNs or another service that specifically says it unblocks BBC iPlayer. Some have had their servers blacklisted by BBC so will no longer work.
  • Make sure that you are using a server in the UK. Most VPN services have servers all across the world, you will need to specifically connect to the UK servers for iPlayer to work.
  • Turn off your location settings. Although a VPN will mask your IP address, if your phone’s location and IP address don’t match, it could cause iPlayer to stop working with a VPN.
  • Clear the cookies on your browser. This is because BBC may place a cookie on your device so it knows you are not in the UK.
  • Try using a laptop or PC. These devices do not report on your location using GPS like phones and tablets.

If you’ve taken the above steps and iPlayer is not working abroad, then you should contact your VPN customer support.


Can You Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad for Free?

Yes, it’s possible to watch BBC iPlayer abroad for free if you download the shows before you go. Using the phone or tablet app, you can download as many shows as your phone’s storage will allow and watch them before they expire.

You must be in the UK when you download them, although you can then take your device anywhere in the world and still watch them until they expire.

Previously, downloaded shows would expire after 30 days, however, this has been changed and now you can watch them for several months or years. You will see the expiry date next to each episode in the app.

You’ll need to watch them on the same device that you downloaded them so using a Chromecast or smart TV won’t be possible.

Unfortunately, unless you have downloaded episodes before you leave the UK, it’s not possible to watch iPlayer abroad for free because none of the free VPN services (such as Proton VPN, Hotspot Shield, and Tunnelbear) have UK servers on their free plans.


How to Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad Without VPN

Although you can’t get the BBC iPlayer app abroad without a VPN, you can still watch many of the BBC’s best shows abroad without a VPN by purchasing episodes or series on YouTube.

The following BBC shows are available to purchase on YouTube, regardless of where you are in the world.

  • Peaky Blinders
  • Sherlock
  • Killing Eve
  • Luther
  • Line of Duty
  • Planet Earth II (Documentary series with David Attenborough)
  • His Dark Materials
  • Mr Bean
  • The Office (UK)
  • Dr Who
  • Fawlty Towers

Prices vary by country although it will typically end up costing you more than a VPN if you watch several episodes. The benefit of this is that it’s totally legal compared to the questionable method of a VPN.

The BBC also sells overseas rights to other streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Max, and Hulu so check if your show is streaming on these to watch them with a subscription.


How to Watch BBC Shows in Australia, USA, Canada, or South Africa (Without VPN)

If you’re trying to watch BBC shows whilst in Australia, the USA, Canada, or South Africa, you should consider Britbox.

Britbox is a service jointly developed by BBC, Channel 4, and ITV. It contains classic and current programs from each of these broadcasters for a monthly fee.

If you purchase a subscription in Australia, the USA, or Canada, it’s transferrable meaning you can move between these countries and it will still work. The South Africa subscription will only work in South Africa.

Note: This service is also available in the UK, however, if you buy your subscription in the UK from Britbox.co.uk, you won’t be able to use this abroad.


How to Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad on a Smart TV

The instructions shared earlier were specific to using a smartphone or tablet, however, if you want to watch iPlayer on a Smart TV, you’ll have to use one of the below methods depending upon which operating system your TV runs:

  • Android TVs – You can install Express VPN directly onto the TV using the Google Play store and access iPlayer through the usual TV app – consult this guide.
  • Samsung and LG Smart TVs – These do not allow VPNs but you can use Express VPN’s Mediastreamer app to get around this.
  • Other Smart TVs – For any other smart TVs, you will need to install Express VPN onto a compatible router. This will unlock BBC iPlayer on all devices connected to the router.

How to Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad on a Fire Stick

If you want to watch BBC iPlayer on a Firestick overseas, you’ll need to install a VPN on your Firestick. I always recommend Express VPN as they have a dedicated app on the Fire Store so you can simply type in ‘Express VPN’ and install it.

Here are the instructions for watching BBC iPlayer on your Firestick from abroad:

  1. Sign up to Express VPN using their website.
  2. On your Firestick, head to the Fire Store and install express VPN.
  3. Sign in with your credentials Express VPN credentials from step 1.
  4. You’ll be prompted to accept a connection request to monitor web traffic, you should allow this.
  5. Next, you should choose a UK server as this is required to access BBC iPlayer from abroad. Now select the ‘Connect’ icon.
  6. Once you see the ‘Connected’ message. You can go ahead and use the iPlayer app on your Firestick and it should function as normal.

If you use other VPN services, you may need to sideload the app onto your Firestick instead. Find out more about sideloading here.


How to Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad on a Chromecast

Watching BBC iPlayer abroad on a Chromecast is more difficult than other devices since most of them fetch the stream directly from the web and do not allow you to install apps.

The instructions are different depending upon which Chromecast you have.

Watch BBC iPlayer abroad on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation devices (without a remote control):

To do this, you’ll need either a compatible router or a Windows 8 or 10 device. It’s not an easy process so I would advise you to try and find an alternative device. If this isn’t possible, here are the instructions:

  1. Sign up to Express VPN using their website.
  2. Set up a VPN router or virtual VPN router.
    – If you have a compatible router, follow these instructions to create a VPN router.
    – If you have a Windows 8 or 10 device, follow these instructions to create a virtual VPN router.
  3. When prompted to choose a server location during this process, you need to select the UK because this will unblock iPlayer.
  4. Once you have your VPN router or virtual VPN router set up, connect both your Chromecast and your phone or tablet to it.
  5. You should now be able to access the BBC iPlayer app on your phone as if you were in the UK and cast content to the Chromecast.

Watch BBC iPlayer abroad on Chromecast with Google TV (with a remote control):

  1. Sign up to Express VPN using their website.
  2. On your Chromecast with Google TV, search for the Express VPN app and follow instructions to install it.
  3. Sign in with your log-in details from step one.
  4. When asked if you’d like to accept the connection request from Express VPN, click ‘Okay’.
  5. Next, you should choose the UK as the server location to unblock BBC iPlayer from abroad. Now select the ‘Connect’ icon.
  6. Once you see the ‘Connected’ message. You can go ahead and use the iPlayer app on your Chromecast to watch shows as normal.

Related Questions

Is it Illegal to Use a VPN to Watch BBC iPlayer?

No, it’s not illegal to watch BBC iPlayer using a VPN, although it is against their license agreement. Nonetheless, many people still do it. However, it is illegal to watch BBC iPlayer without a TV licence so you should ensure you have one even if you are only watching on-demand shows.

You should also be cautious about the VPN laws in countries you are visiting, for example, their usage is restricted in Russia, China, Turkey, and more.

If you want to watch BBC shows without having a TV licence, consider Britbox which has many of the BBC’s popular shows alongside other British broadcasters for a monthly fee. More on this service below.

Can I Watch Channel 4 Abroad?

No, you cannot watch channel 4 abroad using the All4 app. This is due to the licencing of the shows that channel 4 shows. However, you can download shows whilst in the UK to watch overseas. You can also use a VPN to make your device think it is still in the UK.

Find out more about watching channel 4 abroad in my full guide.

Can I Watch ITV Abroad?

No, unfortunately, it’s not possible to watch ITV abroad using ITV Hub. However, you can download the shows whilst in the UK using your phone or tablet and watch them for the next 7 days, even if you go overseas.

Alternatively, you can use a VPN on your device and select the UK as your location to unblock ITV Hub.

See our full How to Watch ITV Abroad [Free and Paid Options]guide to watching ITV Hub abroad for step-by-step instructions.

Kieren

I have been building up my smart home since 2016 so I'm a bit of a smart home expert by now. On this blog, I share my favourite smart home devices that I've tested along with tips and tricks I learn by watching countless YouTube videos, scrolling through forums, and tinkering around with my own smart devices. I've always been a Google Home user but I'm starting to think Alexa might have the edge, what do you think?