So, you want to watch all the ad-free content on BBC iPlayer but you're not in the UK? What you need is a BBC iPlayer VPN.
Whether you're out of the country on a work trip or holiday (well, perhaps not the latter right now), 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 an iPlayer VPN 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 any working iPlayer VPN should work wonders for 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.
- Get to the nitty-gritty – see who wins in ExpressVPN vs NordVPN
- Or perhaps you want to see the outcome of IPVanish vs NordVPN
- PC users should get a Windows VPN, and Apple users need a Mac VPN
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
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.View Deal
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.View Deal
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 good value at just £2.86/$3.71 a month.View Deal
The best iPlayer VPNs today
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
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.View Deal
Surfshark 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 and OpenVPN – 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 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.
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.
In our latest round of testing we noticed that the BBC may have upped its game in terms of VPN blocking, but Hotspot Shield was one VPN that was totally unfazed.
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 just about every other service, 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.
Private Internet Access might seem like a bit of wild card here, but its streaming performance has really improved in the last 6 months or so. In fact, other than the services above, it's the only provider we tested that unblocked iPlayer every time.
What's more, it's also seriously good value at well under $3 a month on the long-term plan. Plus, with excellent torrenting support and a vast number of server worldwide (we're talking over 28,000!) , it's a well-rounded product that can do more than simply unblock iPlayer.
However, compared to those above, the experience is a little bare-bones, and speeds are a little down on the fastest providers. All that said, though, it's still a great choice.
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.