Skip to main content

The best iPlayer VPN in 2021

best iPlayer VPN
(Image credit: BBC)

Using an iPlayer VPN is quite simply the perfect way to get access to all the exclusive content on the BBC's comprehensive streaming service.

Whether you're out of the UK on a work trip or holiday, or you don't live in the UK but want to watch tons or TV and films for absolutely free, you'll need to change your location with a VPN for iPlayer to access it. That's because iPlayer is totally blocked to anyone outside the UK.

And it just so happens that only the best VPN will do – the BBC has some of the most powerful VPN blocking tech in the business. However, that does mean that most iPlayer VPNs also work with Netflix, Amazon Prime, and plenty of other streaming services.

All you need to do is bag yourself one of the options below, select a UK VPN server, and get watching like you were back at home in Blighty.

What makes a great iPlayer VPN?

Besides offering swift connections so that you can stream in HD, the best iPlayer VPN should have a good amount of servers within the UK and keep on top of iPlayer access. If it doesn't, you might be left high and dry in a month or two's time.

Super-simple operation is also a high priority – while you can expect any of our VPN recommendations to offer great security, if you're just after an iPlayer VPN to stream with, it's likely you'll want to be able to just click and connect. Additional features may well be present under the surface – as with our top pick ExpressVPN – but getting up running easily is important too.

So, keep scrolling to find out how to watch BBC iPlayer anywhere – we've lined up the five best tried and tested options today.

1. ExpressVPN – excellent security and iPlayer performance

1. ExpressVPN – excellent security and iPlayer performance
If you need access to iPlayer – whether that's because you're abroad or it's blocked on your network – ExpressVPN is a reliable way of doing so. With tons of UK servers and super intuitive apps, it's never been so easy to unblock content. Plus, you'll now get three months free with a 12-month plan.

2. Surfshark – the best-value iPlayer VPN on the market

2. Surfshark – the best-value iPlayer VPN on the market
For bargain hunters who want to watch Bargain Hunt, Surfshark will be a seriously tempting proposition. At just £1.84/$2.49 a month, it's the most affordable way to reliably unblock iPlayer whether you're in Hull or Hungary.

3. NordVPN – big name is excellent for iPlayer

3. NordVPN – big name is excellent for iPlayer
If you want all-round online protection and the power to watch iPlayer anywhere in the world, NordVPN is also a great choice. With over 5,000 servers worldwide a good selection in the UK, it's fast and reliable, plus it's great value, too.

The best iPlayer VPN today

ExpressVPN best iplayer vpn

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

Unblock iPlayer without sacrificing your connection speed

Unblocks BBC iPlayer: Yes
24/7 customer support: Yes
Money-back guarantee: 30 days
Also unblocks : Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Hulu
Streaming devices supported: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox
Simultaneous connections: 5
Reasons to buy
+Reliably accesses iPlayer+Great speeds+Top-tier 24/7 support+Powerful privacy 
Reasons to avoid
-iPlayer support was lost for a month or so

If you're after our #1 iPlayer VPN, we'd have to recommend ExpressVPN. Not only is it our top-rated VPN overall, but it's perfect for streaming iPlayer thanks to its great selection of servers, blazing speeds and, of course, that fact it can get you access in the first place.

What’s more, ExpressVPN is renowned for its excellent customer service. If something goes wrong while you’re watching iPlayer, you’ll be able to launch a live support chat immediately as agents are available 24/7.

Another ExpressVPN bonus is a diverse set of client apps for devices such as the Fire TV Stick and game consoles. With other VPNs, you could end up spending hours fiddling with your Wi-Fi router to connect these devices – not so here, as you’ll have a dedicated app right in the store, ready to download.

Some of these devices rely on Express’s MediaStreamer tech, which allows you to access blocked content through the use of Smart DNS rather than using VPN servers. This means that you can use ExpressVPN to unblock content on tons of devices like Samsung Tizen TVs that don't support true VPN connections. Be aware, though, that it doesn't provide the security benefits of a real VPN on these devices.

It's worth noting that ExpressVPN had a hiccup with iPlayer in late 2020, and even after the problem was rectified we had to drop them to second place in this guide as a result. However, iPlayer access has been constant and reliable for a few months now, and thanks to the quick response from the devs and the fact it's such an excellent all-round service, it's now back to #1.

Get 49% off plus 3 free months of the best iPlayer VPN

Get 49% off plus 3 free months of the best iPlayer VPN
iPlayer is a world-class streaming service, and ExpressVPN can really provide. Plus, Tom's Guide readers can save by getting three free months of ExpressVPN. That's 15 months for the price of 12, alongside a saving of 49%. Not bad for the best iPlayer VPN on the market.

Surfshark iplayer VPN

(Image credit: Surfshark)

2. Surfshark

Stream iPlayer on as many devices as you want

Unblocks BBC iPlayer: Yes
24/7 customer support: Yes
Money-back guarantee: 30 days
Also unblocks : Netflix, YouTube, Hulu
Streaming devices supported: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox
Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Reasons to buy
+Bargain prices+Over 1,700 servers+Unlimited connections
Reasons to avoid
-Struggles with Amazon Prime

Our Surfshark review demonstrates that there’s no need to break the bank in order to access a top-quality iPlayer VPN. As long as you’re willing to take out a lengthy contract, this is easily the best cheap VPN service providers on the market today.

Happily, even though it’s affordable, Surfshark doesn't lack any important VPN features. Your browsing data will be secure with thanks to 256-bit AES encryption and protocols like IKEv2, OpenVPN and WireGuard – plus the apps are incredibly easy to use no matter what platform you’re on, making iPlayer access super simple.

One of Surfshark’s party pieces is its unlimited connections policy – this is almost unheard of in the industry, and having it combined with such a rock-bottom price offers excellent value. Overall, while it can’t quite compete with the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN in terms of sheer power and configuration, Surfshark is a cheap iPlayer option that doesn’t scrimp on quality – plus you’ll also have 30 days to claim your money back if you don’t love the service.

NordVPN iplayer VPN

(Image credit: NordVPN)

3. NordVPN

Audited security so you can stream iPlayer safely

Unblocks BBC iPlayer: Yes
24/7 customer support: Yes
Money-back guarantee: 30 days
Also unblocks : Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Hulu
Streaming devices supported: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox
Simultaneous connections: 6
Reasons to buy
+Security and logging practices audited+Blocks malware+Great speeds
Reasons to avoid
-Mobile apps are awkward-iPlayer sometimes needs browser extension

NordVPN has been a fixture of our best iPlayer VPN list for a long time now thanks to its large UK network and value-adding bonus features. While connected to the web via Nord, you’ll be protected from malware and phishing ads through NordVPN’s CyberSec tech – learn more in our NordVPN review.

Also, you can rest assured that your information will stay private because NordVPN employs powerful encryption and DNS leak protection. And, if you’re still not convinced, thanks to a 30-day money-back guarantee you’ll have the freedom to figure out whether the NordVPN package is right for you.

However, be aware that in our most recent testing, it was necessary to install Nord's browser extension to unblock iPlayer. While that's not too hard to sort out, it's not quite as seamless as the VPNs above.

Hotspot Shield

(Image credit: Hotspot Shield)

4. Hotspot Shield

The fastest iPlayer VPN on the market

Unblocks BBC iPlayer: Yes
24/7 customer support: Yes
Money-back guarantee: 45 days
Also unblocks : Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Hulu, Disney+
Streaming devices supported: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Smart TV
Simultaneous connections: 5
Reasons to buy
+Incredible speeds+45-day money-back guarantee+Great streaming performance
Reasons to avoid
-Simplistic apps

In our latest round of testing for our Hotspot Shield review, we noticed that the BBC may have upped its game in terms of VPN blocking, but Hotspot Shield was one VPN that had some success. 

Known both as an excellent fast VPN and one of the best free VPN options on the market, no matter how fast your internet connection is, it'll be able to keep pace. That's great when it comes to streaming on BBC iPlayer, as you won't be left buffering.

Beyond streaming, you'll also get a few neat features on desktop like Smart VPN (which can be used like split tunneling), auto-connect, and a list of your recently used servers. It's not nearly as comprehensive as some other services, but if you're looking for a simple and effective way of streaming iPlayer abroad, that won't really matter to you.

If you're a true streaming fanatic, Hotspot Shield has got you covered too, and it's able to unblock other services too, including Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime.

So, for hyper-speed streaming and simple, easy-to-use apps, there's a seriously compelling argument for choosing Hotspot Shield as your iPlayer VPN.

VyprVPN best iplayer vpn

(Image credit: VyprVPN)

5. VyprVPN

Excellent streaming power plus top security

Unblocks BBC iPlayer: Yes
24/7 customer support: Yes
Money-back guarantee: 30 days
Also unblocks : Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Disney+
Streaming devices supported: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire
Simultaneous connections: 30
Reasons to buy
+Reliable for iPlayer+Great security features+Apps for tons of devices
Reasons to avoid
-Fewer servers worldwide than most-Iffy kill switch on Windows

When it comes to streaming VPNs, VyprVPN seems to get a little forgotten, but in our VyprVPN review we found the provider to be seriously capable, and able to not only unblock iPlayer, but Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, too.

It's also no slouch when it comes to keeping you safe online, having undertaken an independent audit of its apps and zero-logging policy as well as having its own Chameleon protocol which disguises the fact you're using a VPN at all.

It's not perfect – there server count isn't quite up there with the best, and in our testing the kill switch had a couple of issues on Windows – but for the bargain price of $1.67 a month plus a huge 30 simultaneous connections, it's well worth checking out if you're on a budget.

iPlayer VPN FAQ

How do we test iPlayer VPNs?

To ensure we're giving you up-to-date information on these iPlayer VPN providers, we regularly test them to make sure they're keeping up with the competition. This is our process:

First, we fire up the VPN to be tested, and connect to the automatically selected server in the UK – this best reflects what the majority of users will be doing.

We then head over to iPlayer and attempt to watch its exclusive content. We do this both in private browsing/Incognito mode and on a regular browser, note any differences, and repeat a number of times to check for any discrepancies.

We then note down the results, and update any relevant guides and articles if necessary.

Why doesn't every service work as an iPlayer VPN?

While almost every VPN has the power to relocate you by routing your connection through a server in a different country, relatively few have the power to unblock streaming services. 

Most can act as a YouTube VPN, unblocking region-restricted content, thanks to the fact that YouTube has relatively lax VPN usage rules. Essentially, it's pretty easy to get around it.

Other services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are trickier, though. To access Netflix a VPN has to put work into avoiding the blocks and check in place, and Amazon also take into account where your subscription is based/being paid from.

However, in terms of VPN blocking, iPlayer is usually the most difficult to unblock. That's probably because there are no ad and it's free to use in the UK – so there's a lot of reasons why people overseas would want to get access. Thus, only the very best services can get you watching.

Mo is eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees privacy and security content, and his product guides help his readers find the best software and products for their needs. When he's not testing VPNs, you'll find him working on his classic car or plugged into a guitar amp.

  • Guide-User
    Top ranking of ExpressVPN when it doesn't currently access iPlayer, how does that work?
    A year ago I subscribed to ExpressVPN in order to access iPlayer.

    When it works, it works well and is good fast connection. Also, for anonymization purposes in the US, it's quick. However, over the past 12-months service with iPlayer has been spotty at best. It gets blocked by the Beeb frequently.

    When ExpressVPN has been blocked in the past we usually fall back to the slow but steady NordVPN as an alternative. It's ok'ish for caching downloaded content, but not so good for watching live streams (it's just too slow).

    Usually ExpressVPN is able to open up BBC iPlayer access again within a week or so of being unable to connect. However, we've been unable to access iPlayer to cache (download) programs via ExpressVPN for over a month this time around despite me trying all of the UK server locations multiple times.

    It's shocking that you rate ExpressVPN as the best possible option when it hasn't worked for iPlayer for the last several weeks--and this is a known issue on ExpressVPN's part.

    The latest support email I received from ExpressVPN (the fourth in a series as I continued to work with them towards a solution) suggested that we log in to a server based in Switzerland so we can create an account on so we can watch BBC or, as a helpful alternative, we could subscribe to here in the US. Useless waste of time.

    Neither of those are useful or viable solutions. I've cancelled our account and then turned to Tom's Guide to find an alternative service, but if your top recommendation is so untested (naming it the best when it doesn't work at all), that makes me wonder how valid any of the other reviews are.

    FWIW here is ExpressVPN's latest support email text:

    Hi XXX,

    Thanks for contacting ExpressVPN Support.

    We understand that you're experiencing an issue when accessing BBC iPlayer. We are aware of the issue, and our engineers are currently working on a fix.
    We still wish to try troubleshooting as it may work for you. Please try connecting to all of our UK server locations. Instructions in changing server locations can be found here.

    If you still encounter issues when connected to East London, there are great alternatives for watching both BBC live TV and VOD.

    Live TV
    : Connect to any of our Switzerland locations and visit in your browser. Zattoo requires you to register, but it's completely free, and once registered you'll be able to access BBC live TV channels, along with many additional channels. See supported devices here:
    : Connect to any of our Switzerland locations and visit in your browser. You can register to Zattoo for free, enabling you to record up to 20 shows (including BBC programming) and store these for 20 days each. You can delete recordings to reset the quota. Their paid service costs 10 CHF per month and allows up to 500 recordings and the ability to watch on demand all shows from the past 7 days, regardless of the recordings you set.
    2. : Connect to any of our US locations and visit in your browser. Britbox is a paid VOD subscription service that carries most BBC content and is available in the United States. Britbox is operated by BBC themselves, costs about 7 USD per month, and does not require a US credit card to sign up (only a US IP address).

    We hope that you find this information useful and can continue to enjoy the BBC programming you love, using the above methods. ExpressVPN continues to unblock other British programming sites like ITV Hub, Channel 4/5, etc.

    To compensate for the issue, I've added another 2 weeks to your account.

    We apologize for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your understanding. Please let us know if we can provide any additional assistance.
    ExpressVPN Support

    Can you explain how you gave this non-operative service your highest ranking?
  • randall48
    Yup .
    Exactly what I have experienced i.e. what used to be quite a reliable service is now total pants .
    Unfortunately the only conclusion is that cynical comercial interests overide factual content , where it comes to which providers are being reccomended .
    This is not an issue restricted to this site , clearly Express invest more in 'advertorials' than they do in their technology .
  • Kanshaku
    Agree entirely: ExpressVPN sometimes works, but often doesn't. It WAS great a few years ago, but after sending me the same emails shown above, not much else was done...