How To Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad in 2024: A Straightforward Guide

How to watch BBC iPlayer abroad
Travel the world and take BBC iPlayer with you wherever you go.

As you may already know, BBC iPlayer only works if you’re in the UK. Trying to access the app or site from abroad results in a black screen and a friendly message letting you know that, unfortunately, TV night has been cancelled. This is because programme licensing rights are limited to geographical areas, so even if you're a resident of the United Kingdom and pay the TV license, you won't have access to iPlayer when you're out of the country. In the streaming industry, this is called geo-blocking, and most video streaming services implement this in one way or another.

In this 10-minute guide we’ll show you how to unblock BBC iPlayer and regain access to all of your favourite TV programmes, even when you’re outside the UK. Let’s get started!

How to unblock BBC iPlayer in 3 easy steps

Don't have time to read the whole article? Here's a quick summary of how to get your favourite streaming service working from abroad.

  1. Get a VPN. A VPN can make it appear that you're connecting from the UK, no matter where you are in the world. I have tested these VPNs and they all work with local streaming services, but I can recommend one above the rest.

    Top Recommendation: ExpressVPN - Our #1 Rated VPN (click to see price)

    Other options:

    Surfshark (click to see price)

    NordVPN (click to see price)
  2. Download the app. Download the right app for your device, sign in, and select a VPN server in the UK.
  3. Stream BBC iPlayer from abroad. Download or sign in to the BBC iPlayer app on your preferred device.
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Going for a short holiday? Use BBC iPlayer Downloads on your computer or the iPlayer app on your mobile device.

If you only plan to be away for a short period of time, there's a free and easy way to maintain your access to BBC iPlayer. On your computer, you can use the official BBC iPlayer Downloads app, which allows you to download programmes from the BBC iPlayer website to your computer for later viewing.

On your phone or tablet, you don't have to do anything extra because the BBC iPlayer app already has all the download functionality built in. Simply tap 'Download' beneath the episode you want to download, wait for the download to finish, and you're all set.

Neither of the above will work for live programming or episodes released after you’ve left the country. To unlock BBC and maintain access to new BBC content when you're outside the UK for extended periods of time, you will need to use a VPN.

Longer holiday or living outside the UK? Use a VPN to unblock BBC iPlayer.

There’s a simple way to work around the BBC iPlayer geo-block. Using a VPN service - software that lets you change your internet address to a server in another location - you can make it look like you are connecting from a different country, thus “unblocking” geo-blocked streaming services. The VPN does this by having servers all across the globe (including the UK) and acting as a middleman between your device and the site or service you are trying to reach. As you can imagine this can be very useful if, for example, you are currently abroad but want it to appear to the BBC that you’re surfing from home. Let’s take a look at how to set everything up - it’s easy.

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Step-by-step: how to watch BBC iPlayer if you're outside the UK

1. Register for a free BBC iPlayer account

This step is pretty straightforward, just fill out the form on the BBC website: You will need a valid UK postcode to be able to complete registration (for example SW1A 1AA or M16 0RA). After you’ve registered, the BBC will send you an email with a validation link that you will have to click before you can log in on their site. 

2. Sign up for a VPN service subscription

Not all VPN services play nice with iPlayer since the Beeb actively tries to prevent people from bypassing their geo-block.

Out of the VPN services that we have tested, we recommend the following that all work with iPlayer:

#1 ExpressVPN - Our top recommendation

Although slightly more expensive than the other two options, this VPN is considered the premium choice and the best VPN in our test. The speeds are more than enough to stream in 4K, and they have servers available in more countries than the other companies, which opens up more geo-blocked streaming services. Highly recommended.

Click here to unblock BBC iPlayer using ExpressVPN

#2 Surfshark - A solid alternative

The cheapest option at just below £2 per month if you go for a two-year subscription. They have a very easy-to-use application and support unblocking of many streaming services, including BBC iPlayer. With Surfshark, you can watch BBC on an unlimited number of devices, a feature we really liked since it makes it easy to share the VPN with family members. 

Click here to unblock BBC iPlayer using Surfshark

#3 NordVPN - Popular choice

NordVPN is one of the most popular and reliable VPN companies out there, and it's also quite affordable if you go for the longer plans. NordVPN works with iPlayer and also unblocks a couple more streaming services than Surfshark (ABC and Eleven Sports, for example). It allows for 6 simultaneous connections.

Click here to unblock BBC iPlayer using NordVPN

Which one to choose?
If all you do is stream, our recommendation is ExpressVPN. Their reliability and high speeds are what make them the top choice in our test. Right now, they also offer 3 months extra for free if you sign up for a 12-month plan.

ExpressVPN - Get 3 extra months FREE
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3. Set up the VPN on your computer, phone and/or tablet

Once you’ve signed up for a VPN, you will need to download their software onto your computer, phone or tablet. The applications for the above mentioned VPNs are all very easy to use: you log in with your account, pick a UK server from a list or a map and click connect.

4. Done! BBC iPlayer is now unblocked.

Once connected, you should be able to watch BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What VPN do you recommend for watching BBC iPlayer abroad? 

We’ve tested many VPN services and for watching BBC iPlayer our top recommendation is ExpressVPN. Other good options for UK television streaming services are Surfshark and NordVPN. They both provide very easy to use applications, where you can simply click on a country on a map to connect, and both offer great customer support. All of the above mentioned VPN options also provide a money back guarantee that allows you to try risk-free for 30 days. It works like this: sign up and try the app, if you're not happy with the service you let customer support know and you'll get your money back. Right now ExpressVPN gives you 3 months extra free when you sign up for a 12-month plan - if you're interested you can check it out here.

ExpressVPN - Get 3 extra months FREE
30-day money-back guarantee

Can I use the VPN also to unblock other streaming services in the UK? 

Yes! Having a VPN service subscription is great value for money since it opens up access and unblocks so many streaming services. For only a couple of pounds per month, using our top choice ExpressVPN, you will be able to stream not only BBC iPlayer but also: ITV, Sky Go, Channel 4, Channel5, over 15 Netflix regions (including the UK), Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Hotstar and a ton of local ones. 

Can I watch BBC iPlayer from abroad without having a UK TV license?

Yes. You’re not supposed to do it, but the BBC doesn't actually check if you have a license or not. So if you want to watch BBC, just answer “Yes, I have a license” when the question pops up and it will let you continue to the stream.

Can I use a free VPN with BBC iPlayer?

In theory yes but we have yet to find a free VPN service that works with BBC iPlayer. Free VPNs can also be a security risk. If you come across a reliable one, feel free to get in touch to let us know about it and we’ll add it to our list. 

Is watching BBC iPlayer from abroad using a VPN illegal? 

No, of course not. In theory it is against the terms and conditions, but we haven't heard of anyone ever being suspended from BBC iPlayer because of this. But, with this said, if you decide to use a VPN you do so at your own risk.