How to watch BBC iPlayer from abroad

BBC iPlayer
(Image credit: BBC)

BBC iPlayer is a great platform to keep up with everything that the UK's largest broadcaster has to offer. The only problem is that all your favorite BBC shows are geo-restricted, meaning that you cannot access these unless you are in the UK. 

However, there is a way around this problem. With a VPN, you can hide your real location and enjoy the service from abroad. You'll just need to sign up for one of the best VPN services around to be able to route your internet connection through a UK server. 

How? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to get started. We have details on how to set up your VPN app on different devices, today's best BBC iPlayer VPN deals and our top recommendation of the best BBC shows around that you cannot miss. 

Can I watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK without a VPN? 

You can, but your choice will be very limited. 

As the BBC states on its website, the best way to watch BBC content when traveling is to download your favorite program on the iPlayer app when you're in the UK before you go. 

But while that's a valid solution for movies and past shows, it doesn't help you keep up with the latest episodes of your favorite dramas and comedies. And what about live sport?

In the past, a proxy server was a common way to bypass this issue. Although, the UK broadcaster learned how to block any attempts of using this type of software. That's why we think using a streaming VPN is now your best shot to avoid missing BBC content from abroad.

BBC iPlayer open on an internet browser

(Image credit: chrisdorney / Shutterstock)

How to unblock BBC iPlayer content in 5 easy steps

Rerouting your IP address can sound like a demanding task. Good news! The most popular VPNs all have user-friendly interfaces that will make the process easy as downloading and logging in into a new app on your phone or laptop.

  1. Sign up for a suitable VPN service. ExpressVPN is our favorite - we explain why below.
  2. Download and install the VPN app. Make sure to choose the correct version according to your device.
  3. Connect to the fastest UK servers available. Generally, one from London or any other major city works best.
  4. Log in to the BBC iPlayer website. You'll need to create an account if you are new to the platform.
  5. Press play and enjoy your favorite show!
Today's top VPN for BBC iPlayer is ExpressVPN

Today's top VPN for BBC iPlayer is ExpressVPN
Our testing shows that ExpressVPN is a service that offers everything you need from a geo-restriction busting VPN. With several super fast UK servers available and a quick, genuinely useful live-chat support, you will be able to access BBC iPlayer when abroad in no time. It's also really easy to use, even for beginners, and you can try it out with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

How to install your VPN on different devices 

If you want to set up your chosen VPN service on a smartphone or laptop, you will find this task easy as downloading and installing a new app. 

When it comes to streaming devices, it may be a bit more complicated. While Amazon Fire Stick offers dedicated VPN apps easy to use, others like Apple TV and Roku do not. 

With Apple TV, you can either manually configuring your DNS IP address with one you find on your VPN website or connecting it through your router (we have a full guide on how to use VPNs on Apple TV). While the only way to make your VPN work with Roku is to install the service on your router - it takes a few extra steps, but it isn't too difficult to set up your VPN on Roku.  

If you want to watch BBC iPlayer through a VPN on an Android TV, simply go to the Google Play Store and look for your VPN's provider app. For all the other operating systems, the easiest way is probably installing a Smart TV VPN on your router as you would do with an Apple TV or Roku streaming device.

ExpressVPN on TV

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

Can I access BBC iPlayer with a free service?

Finding a good free VPN that can unblock BBC iPlayer content is a far greater challenge. The Beeb is constantly trying to prevent the use of such software, and most free services just can't keep up with. Some - like ProtonVPN - deliberately prevent streaming unless you upgrade to its Plus plan. While limited data and potential safety risks of other services are other common downsides that come with free versions.

The good news at least is that that many premium VPNs have free trials, usually in the form of a 30-day money-back guarantee. That's a great advantage for users that want to test their premium features without spending a penny in the long run.

Best to watch on BBC iPlayer in 2022

As well as perennial favorites like Doctor Who, EastEnders, University Challenge and Match of the Day, 2022 has already been a stellar year for new shows hitting the platform. BBC iPlayer is also the place to watch Peaky Blinders season 6 from start to finish, for example. 

Here's a sample of some of the best content available right now:

  • The Outlaws, Season 2: The second run of Stephen Merchant’s popular crime comedy drama is shown on BBC One and, of course, BBC iPlayer. Season 2 starts exactly where the first left off, with the hapless group continuing their community service while facing the fallout of their actions. 
  • Everything I Know About Love: Adaptation of the 2018 journalist and podcaster Dolly Alderton’s book, it follows the stories of a group of four girls in their early twenties who try to find their way in a 2012 London. 
  • Conversations with Friends: Based on the 2017 debut novel of Sally Rooney, it was shown on BBC Three in the UK (and Hulu in the US). Prepare yourself to get hooked up in a story of love, friendship and lies between two students and a married couple.  
  • House of Maxwell: Exclusive tapes and intimate first-hand accounts will chart this family saga that started with the disappearance of Ghislaine Maxwell’s father and an economic scandal.  
  • This is Going to Hurt: Based on his homonymous bestselling memoir, comedian Adam Key brings to the screens the journey of a young doctor - played by Ben Whishaw - through the ranks of the NHS. 

The Outlaws' characters with a graffiti on the background

(Image credit: BBC)

Is watching BBC iPlayer with a VPN illegal? 

The simple answer is no. 

If you are paying a UK TV licence, you are legally allowed to watch BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world. A VPN will just allow you to stream your favorite content no matter where you are, by hiding your real location and bouncing you to a UK IP address. 

Good news: it's perfectly legal doing so! As the UK broadcaster states in its term of use, 'If we detect that you might be using a VPN, you'll be unable to play programs. This is because we need to be confident you're in the UK.' The only possibility could then be that of not being able to stream, without breaking the law. 

Whilst, even though BBC iPlayer does not check if you are actually a payer, you are technically not allowed to use the service without a licence - whether or not you access the BBC catalog with a VPN. So, you will be able to do so, but at your own risk. 

What to do if your VPN does not work with iPlayer

The BBC is constantly trying to prevent users from accessing their online catalog when outside the UK. As a result, iPlayer can make your VPN’s job challenging at times. 

Below there are some hacks that can help you to fix your VPN problems with BBC iPlayer:

  • Clear your cookies and then reload the page
  • Try with a different browser
  • Report the issue to your VPN customer support team, asking for a recommendation to the best server to use
  • Sometimes your real IP address can leak information. Enable the leak protection option in your VPN’s settings menu to stop this from happening
  • If you are watching iPlayer from your smartphone, try to switch on your PC. Doing that prevents GPS data from being cross-referenced with your IP address

If none of these steps is working, your VPN may simply not be suitable for iPlayer. So the final suggestion is to check our list of working iPlayer VPNs to ensure that you're getting fully functioning software.  

Chiara Castro
Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to