How to Unblock & Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad with a VPN

article by Rebecca Lori
January 12, 2020
After Netflix, one of the most popular streaming sites in the UK is BBC iPlayer. The BBC is known to broadcast some of the best shows on British television and have a reputation for producing breathtaking nature documentaries, edgy thrillers, and top-quality drama.

Why Use a VPN for BBC iPlayer?

Recognized worldwide for its original programming and reporting, the BBC is an excellent source for news, entertainment, and sitcoms. BBC iPlayer is only available to those that live in the UK and those that pay their license fee…unless you use a VPN. In this article, we shall look at the best Virtual Private Networks used to unblock BBC iPlayer.

How Do I Access iPlayer?

BBC iPlayer is accessible online by visiting the BBC iPlayer Website. On the website, you will be able to gain access to a variety of different programs, television shows, box sets, and movies – all completely free. You can also check the news, the latest sports results and weather reports there too. If you plan to use iPlayer on your smartphone, then you will have to download the BBC iPlayer App  (which is available on iTunes or Google Play). The BBC iPlayer App is actually very useful as it allows license holders to download movies and box sets to your laptop or smartphone that you can watch anywhere – however, you won’t be able to download new content unless you use a VPN.

How Can a VPN Help?

The fastest and easiest solution to being able to watch whatever BBC content you like, whenever you like – is to use a Virtual Private Network. There are many benefits to using a VPN but they are mostly used by people who want to access their favorite TV shows whilst abroad.

How Does it Work?

A Virtual Private Network or VPN works by allowing you to get through geo-blocks that stop you from accessing content from not only your own country but others too – that’s why many people around the world use a VPN to watch US Netflix as the shows are often different! A good quality VPN will not only allow you access to these streaming sites, but it will also give you unrivaled protection against data theft too. A VPN will protect your data and keep you anonymous by routing your online activity to different servers and encrypting the information – essentially scrambling your activity so it’s unreadable to potential hackers. This is particularly useful when you are using your laptop or smartphone to access personal information using public WiFi.

When looking for a VPN to use for unblocking geographically restricted content such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix you will need to look for a VPN with plenty of US and UK based servers. Another feature to look out for is fast and reliable speeds. There is literally nothing worse than getting into your favorite TV show only for it to keep stopping and buffering. Seamless streaming is essential. You’ll also want good customer support, in case things don’t run to plan.

Below you will find a list of the best VPNs for unblocking BBC iPlayer.





What’s The Deal With iPlayer?

The BBC is paid for by UK license payers who pay a set fee each year to enable them to watch BBC channels. Not everyone is aware that BBC iPlayer also requires a license. The problem is, that even if you are a BBC TV license holder you still won’t be able to access your favorite BBC content abroad. You might wonder why this is – after all, you are paying for the service! This simply comes down to the fact that the BBC don’t hold international rights and so, if you’ve ever tried to access iPlayer from a country outside of the UK you will usually see the following error message:

“BBC iPlayer TV programmes are available to play in the UK only”.

The explanation given is the following:

“Due to rights reasons, you cannot stream programmes in BBC iPlayer outside the UK, even on holiday.”

Which let’s face it, is probably one of the most frustrating messages you can ever see. The only way you can bypass these geographical blocks (geo-blocks) is to use a VPN.


Top VPNs for iPlayer

#1 ExpressVPN

Express VPN 210X100

This Virtual Private Network provider often comes up as one if the best and that’s because it really does offer outstanding quality. ExpressVPN offers super-fast connection speeds which will prevent any frustrating buffering issues when you’re watching your favorite show on BBC iPlayer. Their safety measures are second to none too – they use the best 256-bit AES encryption techniques which give you extra security when streaming online. The VPN has a vital kill switch feature too, which essentially means that your internet connection will cut out if the VPN fails for any reason, keeping you safe at all times.

ExpressVPN has servers everywhere! With over 1700 servers scattered around 100 countries, this is definitely one of the largest providers of its kind. If you are not happy with the service then the company provide a 30-day money back guarantee too – so you literally have nothing to lose by trying out this service. There are a number of different deals available, including a 15-month payment plan where you get extra time added entirely free.

If anything goes wrong when you’re trying to access iPlayer you will have no problems contacting the customer service team. They have representatives available 24/7 via an online chat feature or email, and they have an excellent response rate.

Check out the full review here.

#2 NordVPN


What we really like about this VPN service is the ability to be able to change your mind if the service isn’t right for you. In fact, NordVPN offers a 30-day money back guarantee so you won’t have to fully commit to the service if it’s not the right product for you.

When streaming BBC content from different countries it’s pretty vital that your connection is anonymous and secure. You can feel safe in the hands of this company as they use pretty robust methods to keep you totally protected. In fact, NordVPN uses multiple layers of security

CyberSec Ad blocking, double hop VPN servers and also leak-protection settings. They have a strict no-logging policy too, so will never store any information of you or your online activity.

The company also provide a kill switch feature, which cuts out the internet connection (and keeps your information secure) should the VPN connection drop out. Find out more with our NordVPN review.

#3 SurfShark

Surfshark VPN

Bypass those frustrating geo-location blocks and use an ultra-safe VPN such as SurfShark. You can access BBC iPlayer anywhere in the world through this virtual private network, safe in the knowledge that the company does not store any of your personal data on their system. SurfShark uses the very latest encryption methods to protect your data end-to-end and they have a nice range of subscriptions available. We found the two-year subscription provided the best value for money.

Users who regularly stream or download movies will be painfully aware that slow connection speeds can greatly affect your experience. SurfShark has over 500 servers in 50 different countries so you should always be able to find the fastest connection, minimizing frustrating buffering and lagging during playback. Another nice offering is the unlimited device feature which allows you to connect all your devices at the same time. This is unusual as VPN providers usually only allow you to connect 1-3 devices at any one time. Find out more about Surfshark here.

#4 CyberGhost

CyberGhost VPN

When you’re trying to unblock iPlayer and watch your favorite TV shows then you’re going to want to feel safe in the knowledge that your details are private and not stored. Luckily, CyberGhost operates a strict no-logging policy which means that they will never store your information on their servers – your data is your own. Choosing the perfect IP address won’t be a problem either as the VPN operates over 5,900 servers across the world, giving you a fast connection  – essential when streaming movies and TV shows.

If you encounter any issues then your problems should be resolved fairly quickly as CyberGhost has a good reputation for customer service and an excellent response rate. You can use the live online facility or email your query over to the team.

If you’re not convinced this is the best VPN for you or would like to compare it to others before making a commitment then you will be pleased to hear that the company provide a 45-day money back guarantee. Check out our review here.


In this day and age there really shouldn’t be any reason why we should be tied down by restrictions. If you have paid your license fee then it’s going to feel very frustrating when you can’t access your favorite shows whilst on holiday. The problem is worse for expats who have moved to other countries and cannot access BBC content. Using a VPN makes sense. Many of the different companies offer free trials so you can test out the product before you commit. VPNs differ in price but you will get value for money if you use one of the top brands as we’ve listed in the article.

There are multiple benefits to using a Virtual Private Network. Not only can you access any streaming service from anywhere in the world, such as US Netflix and BBC iPlayer, but you’ll also get a secure connection. VPNs encrypt your data and many companies do not store any information about your online activities. You are safe. VPNs are a convenient way to stay safe and have the freedom to be able to watch any content you like – without censorship and geo-restrictions. Don’t be caught out on while abroad again, the next time you start to compile your holiday list make sure you don’t forget to add a VPN.