If you stray outside of the UK, you’ll find that BBC iPlayer is suddenly unresponsive. Here’s how to watch BBC iPlayer shows even when you’re abroad or offline, by downloading shows, tweaking DNS settings or using a VPN.
The BBC iPlayer was one of the first stable online video streaming services, which set the bar for all future streaming and helped to redefine TV to the current on-demand reality. So how can we be expected to live without it when we’re outside the UK, right?
Fear not intrepid traveller, your favourite stiff-upper lipped streamer isn’t limited to the shores of Blighty alone. Well, sort of. There are a few ways to enjoy BBC iPlayer when you’re abroad, although the Beeb and the UK Government might not be entirely cool with all of them.
As long as you’re a UK license payer, read on to find out how to watch and enjoy BBC iPlayer shows wherever you go.
How to watch iPlayer abroad: Download BBC iPlayer videos to your phone or tablet
One of the most simple ways to enjoy BBC iPlayer when outside of the UK is to download videos to your mobile device. This requires a bit of forward thinking, as you won’t be able to download while away unless you follow the IP fooling step in the ‘using a VPN’ section.
For the download method, simply find what you want to watch and select to download it before you leave the country. This will then be stored locally on the drive of your device, be it a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
This method has limitations, however. Once downloaded the video will have a lifetime of 30 days from when the programme was shown on TV – not 30 days from when you downloaded it. So if the show was aired on April 1, you’ll have until April 30 to watch it, no matter what day within that month you downloaded the programme.
This should work anywhere in the world regardless of internet connection, so you can enjoy shows even on the plane.
How to watch BBC iPlayer abroad: Using a VPN
One way to continue with your usual streaming access to BBC iPlayer content is to mask your IP address.
An IP (or ‘Internet Protocol’) address is what tells the BBC precisely where you are in the world. If you’re located outside of the UK, iPlayer assumes that you aren’t a license payer and therefore you won’t have access to the usual content. However, if you’re simply on holiday as a UK resident and taxpayer, you should still have the right to access content, shouldn’t you? In this case, using a VPN is the simplest way – although legally it’s a bit iffy. Bear in mind that if you don’t live in the UK or pay your license, you shouldn’t be tapping in.
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, effectively tricks the iPlayer into thinking you’re back in the UK, no matter where you are in the world. It does this by assigning you with a UK IP, so the BBC thinks it’s sending the streaming data to a UK machine.
What VPN works best for BBC iPlayer when you’re outside of the UK?
There are plenty of VPN options out there and many are free and easy to use. Some work across multiple devices too, no matter if you’re on a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Hola VPN is a very popular and minimal VPN. This can be downloaded as an app for smartphones and tablets or as a Chrome extension for use in browsers on laptops. Simply visit a site then use the Hola icon to pick where you want to appear to be browsing from. In this case, you’d pick UK while abroad and then the BBC iPlayer should work as it would when you’re back home.
Another option is IPVanish, which you need to pay for. By paying a bit of cash, you get a more secure offering that ensures stability wherever you roam.
NordVPN is another paid-for service which costs £4 per month and also offers anonymity, security and total access worldwide.
ZenMate is a free VPN that works as an extension for browsers, but also functions on mobiles. This has 28 countries covered and by paying for the premium service also offers automatic switching.
There are plenty more options out there each varying depending on your needs. For basic iPlayer viewing which doesn’t require too much security the free options should work just fine.
How to watch BBC iPlayer abroad: Change your DNS settings
A slightly more complicated way to access BBC iPlayer when in another country is to change your VPN settings. Rather than changing the IP given to your device through the internet connection, this essentially changes that information at the source.
This is easier in some ways, as if you set a router DNS to a UK address then anyone accessing that router when on holiday will be browsing as if back in the UK – no VPN needed. This makes it an ideal solution for a family staying in a villa while abroad, with lots of different devices using the Wi-Fi.
Not all routers will allow for DNS setting changes, sadly. But if yours does have this option, it can be as simple as logging in by keying 192.168.0.1 into a connected browser window, with a few variants on those last numbers depending on the router. Log in, then go to the DNS settings. You can check your home settings before you leave and just match these, or search for the latest working UK DNS settings and pop those in.
If all that works, your router is now set to treat all Wi-Fi connected devices like they’re in the UK. Just remember to change it back before you leave if the router isn’t yours.
These settings are easily changed in a PlayStation or Xbox console too, so if you’re taking one away with you it can be easier to just play iPlayer via these rather than messing with the router.