3 Best FREE VPNs to Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad [Tested 2021]
Trying to find a free VPN that works with BBC iPlayer while abroad is frustrating. I’ve tried dozens of free VPNs that promised unlimited access to iPlayer, but most couldn’t even avoid detection by the BBC’s technology. Some could, but had strict data limits, slow speeds, and terrible customer service. Worse still, some free VPNs tried to infect my devices with malware designed to steal my personal data!
After testing 35 free services, I found 3 VPNs that work consistently with BBC iPlayer without compromising your online safety. Of these 3, ExpressVPN is the best VPN for iPlayer. That’s because it provides fast speeds and secure connections for smooth, lag-free iPlayer streaming from wherever you are. While it’s a paid service, you can test ExpressVPN without putting your money at risk. If you’re not happy, you can get a full refund as ExpressVPN is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Quick Guide: Best Free VPNs for BBC iPlayer in October 2021
- ExpressVPN — #1 free VPN for BBC iPlayer — fast speeds and global server network make it easy to watch BBC iPlayer abroad. Plus, you can try ExpressVPN for yourself risk-free!
- CyberGhost — Optimized server guarantees easy connections to BBC iPlayer, but has some speed slow down over long distances.
- TunnelBear — Accesses BBC iPlayer with GhostBear masked connection, but only 500MB of data per month is available.
Can I Really Use Free VPNs to Watch BBC iPlayer?
Yes, you really can use a free VPN to watch BBC iPlayer, as long as you choose a high-quality free VPN. However, you’ll find that most free VPNs can’t access BBC iPlayer because of its high-level VPN detection technology. That’s because the majority of free VPNs lack the means to mask your IP address — and location — effectively when you connect to a UK server. And If your true location leaks, the iPlayer will detect it and instantly block you from its site. Even premium VPNs sometimes struggle against the BBC’s impressive technology, making it even more important to choose the best VPN.
Those free VPNs that can access BBC iPlayer are often extremely limited and unreliable. They’ll throttle speeds so you experience constant buffering, impose data caps that severely limit how much you can watch, and often won’t connect due to server congestion. Usually, you’ll only be able to use one device at a time, so you won’t be able to stream on multiple screens. Overall, the majority of free VPNs result in wasted time and a frustrating streaming experience.
Not only that, but many free VPNs don’t protect your data at all while you’re connected. It’s very common for free services to rely on ads for revenue, meaning your online activity could easily be traced. This compromises your data security, putting you at risk of identity theft. Worse still, some free VPNs have been known to contain malware that infects your devices and holds them hostage by hackers.
That said, there are some secure free VPNs on the market, like the ones listed in this article — all of the free VPNs I found work well with BBC iPlayer. However, you’ll only get unlimited streaming and top speeds with a premium VPN service. A VPN like ExpressVPN has fast speeds and multiple UK servers that easily access BBC iPlayer, plus high-level encryption that keeps your data secure and anonymous while you’re connected. While it isn’t free, you can try ExpressVPN without risking a penny as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
How to Watch BBC iPlayer With a Free VPN in 3 Easy Steps
- Get a VPN with servers in the UK. ExpressVPN has multiple UK servers for easy access to BBC iPlayer, plus you can test ExpressVPN for yourself risk-free!
- Connect to a server in the UK. Once connected, you can visit the BBC iPlayer website and sign in or create an account.
- Start streaming on BBC iPlayer! Remember, you’ll need to have a valid UK postcode (like TN27 8AB) to use the service.
Important: By law, viewers of the BBC (including BBC iPlayer) require a TV license to watch its content. While you don’t have to prove you have a license to use BBC iPlayer, you should be aware that it’s a criminal offense to stream its content without one. If caught streaming without a TV license, you could face a fine of up to £1,000 or even prison time.
3 Best Free VPNs for BBC iPlayer in October 2021
- Global network of 3000 servers — 4 servers in the UK for quick, easy connections
- Lightning-fast speeds guarantee smooth, lag-free streaming on BBC iPlayer
- Robust encryption allows effortless access to iPlayer from anywhere
- Supports up to 94 device connections at the same time
- 24/7 customer service with live chat, email support, and knowledge base
- 30-day money-back guarantee
While it isn’t free, ExpressVPN takes the top spot for BBC iPlayer with its reliable UK connections and fast download speeds. Its impressive global network of 3000 servers has 4 locations in the UK — Docklands, East London, London, and Wembley. During my tests, I found all 4 of these server locations could access BBC iPlayer without issue. None of them triggered the iPlayer proxy error, so it was easy to start streaming right away.
These ExpressVPN servers can avoid BBC’s detection because of their advanced obfuscation technology. Server obfuscation prevents deep-packet inspection, a way for websites to inspect the details of sent data, and how the BBC can detect VPN connections masking an IP address abroad. ExpressVPN’s obfuscated servers can help you get around corporate firewalls to watch BBC iPlayer from anywhere. You can even use ExpressVPN while you travel in China, Russia, and other countries with restrictive internet to stream BBC content.
I was impressed by ExpressVPN’s fast download speeds that allow smooth streaming on BBC iPlayer. During my tests, ExpressVPN was fast enough for UltraHD streaming on all servers — my speed only dropped 18% on average, from my base of 115Mbps down to 94Mbps. My speeds were still extremely fast even when I tested distant servers. This is good news if you’re far from the UK or have a slower internet connection, as ExpressVPN’s servers are designed to mitigate speed loss as much as possible.
For reference, your speed only needs to be 5Mbps to stream BBC iPlayer in HD-quality video. You should note that your speeds with ExpressVPN will depend on your base internet speed, so your results could differ from mine.
ExpressVPN is one of the top VPNs for a range of devices, including Windows PCs, macOS, smartphones, tablets, and routers. If you don’t have a device that supports the ExpressVPN app, you can use ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer feature to watch BBC iPlayer. This feature lets you change the DNS settings for devices like Apple TV, routers, and game consoles that aren’t compatible with the app. I had MediaStreamer up and running in just a couple of minutes on my router and could easily connect to BBC iPlayer.
However, MediaStreamer doesn’t have ExpressVPN’s military-grade security, so be sure not to use it for sending and receiving sensitive information. Fortunately, you can configure ExpressVPN with a compatible router if you’d like to protect all of your devices with its top-tier security.
ExpressVPN also has several security features that can safely and anonymously access BBC iPlayer. Its split tunneling feature allows you to choose which apps pass through the encrypted connection — I could stream on BBC iPlayer while shopping online locally. Also, ExpressVPN’s IP and DNS leak protection ensure all of your data is secure within the encrypted tunnel. My test results showed my online activity was totally protected with zero leaks.
While ExpressVPN is a paid service, you have the option to test it for yourself without risking a penny. I’m confident you’ll find ExpressVPN is the best choice for BBC iPlayer, but if you don’t agree you can get a full refund as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. I tested the process myself and was surprised by how easy it was. I simply contacted customer service using the 24/7 live chat and the agent arranged my refund in less than 5 minutes, no questions asked. Best of all, I had the money back in my account in less than a week.
ExpressVPN works on: Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, PlayStation, Xbox, Smart TVs, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick, Amazon Fire TV, routers, and more.
ExpressVPN also unblocks: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Vudu, Disney+, HBO Max, SlingTV, SHOWTIME, DAZN, ESPN, ITV, and more.
October 2021 Update! ExpressVPN has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $6.67 per month for the 1-year plan (you can save up to 49%) + 3 months free! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.
- Network of 6900 servers with a dedicated iPlayer server in the UK
- Reliably fast speeds for streaming with minimal lag or buffering
- Optimized server provides quick access to iPlayer when abroad
- Connects up to 7 devices simultaneously
- 24/7 customer service through live chat, email, and knowledge base
- 45-day money-back guarantee
CyberGhost has an optimized server specifically for BBC iPlayer, which works flawlessly no matter where in the world you are. Like with the rest of its optimized servers, CyberGhost tests and maintains the iPlayer server regularly to guarantee a reliable connection. I was impressed by how quickly and easily I could start streaming content on iPlayer — I connected in less than 5 seconds and had no issues signing in to my iPlayer account and streaming Killing Eve.
When using CyberGhost’s regular servers, I couldn’t always connect to BBC iPlayer without being detected. Fortunately, CyberGhost has multiple UK servers, so it didn’t take long to find one that worked well.
That said, I noticed a big difference in speed between CyberGhost’s optimized and regular servers. On average, CyberGhost’s special BBC iPlayer server was 30% faster than the regular ones. Better still, CyberGhost’s optimized server only dropped my network speed by 20% — from 115Mbps to 90Mbps. It’s worth noting that CyberGhost may cause network slowdowns over long distances. That’s why I recommend only connecting to CyberGhost’s optimized BBC iPlayer server if you want the best speed and stream quality.
CyberGhost can let you stream BBC iPlayer on a UK server while you also access local sites when abroad. This is possible with CyberGhost’s split tunneling feature that allows specified websites to bypass its encrypted connection. Split tunneling is primarily a security feature, but I found it useful when I wanted to stream a TV show and shop online locally at the same time.
Other CyberGhost security features include a kill switch and leak protection, both designed to protect your data and anonymity when you’re connected. I was impressed by CyberGhost’s IP and DNS leak protection, which kept my data securely within the encrypted tunnel. I had no data leaks at all during my tests, which would have otherwise triggered the BBC’s VPN detection technology.
You can try all of CyberGhost’s features for free using its 24-hour free trial. And while a day is not enough to see how well it works with BBC iPlayer, CyberGhost is also backed by a 45-day money-back guarantee, which you can use as a free trial. Just sign up for CyberGhost and stream as much BBC content as you want, then ask for a refund before the 45-day guarantee period expires. The process is easy — I tried it myself and it took less than 3 minutes to have my refund granted by a customer service agent. Like ExpressVPN, CyberGhost has a no-questions-asked refund policy so I didn’t have to give a reason for canceling. Best of all, I had my money back in my account in just a week.
CyberGhost works on: Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, PlayStation, Xbox, Smart TVs, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick, Amazon Fire TV, routers, and more.
CyberGhost also unblocks: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Disney+, HBO Max, SlingTV, SHOWTIME, DAZN, ESPN, ITV, and more.
October 2021 Update: CyberGhost has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $2.25 per month for the 2-year plan (you can save up to 83%)! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.
- 40+ servers in its global network with 1 server location in the UK
- Reliable speeds for streaming with minimal buffering
- Only allows access to iPlayer using the GhostBear obfuscation feature
- Allows 1 device connection with its free service
- Customer support available via email and knowledge base
TunnelBear’s free VPN has a feature called GhostBear, which is ideal for connecting to BBC iPlayer from abroad. GhostBear makes your encrypted data appear as regular internet traffic, reducing the chance that the BBC will detect traces of the VPN. When I switched on GhostBear in the Security settings, I could immediately access BBC iPlayer without issue. When GhostBear wasn’t active, the BBC flagged TunnelBear as a VPN and blocked my connection.
I was pleased to find that TunnelBear’s download speeds were reliably fast. From my base ISP speed of 115Mbps, TunnelBear dropped my speed by 30% to 80Mbps. I could still stream in UltraHD quality with minimal buffering and no interruptions. If you’re in a location far from the UK, you could notice a more significant drop which may impact stream quality.
While TunnelBear only has 1 UK server, I didn’t experience any congestion or connection issues while using the service. On average, it took around 15 seconds to establish a VPN connection. This is slower than other VPNs that have almost instant connections, but I didn’t mind the wait.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear’s free service only provides 500MB of data per month. This gives you around 45 minutes of SD streaming, which in most cases isn’t even a full TV episode. However, you can get a one-time 1GB data boost by posting a tweet about the company.
TunnelBear doesn’t have many extra security features apart from a kill switch, which needs to be manually switched on to protect your data if the connection is interrupted. The free VPN also has leak protection as standard, and during my tests I found TunnelBear secured all of my data when I was connected — zero leaks.
You’ll need to create an account to unblock BBC iPlayer with TunnelBear’s free plan, with a working email to verify the account. Fortunately, TunnelBear isn’t supported by ads and its zero-logs policy has been independently verified. You can rest assured your data is private and anonymous while connected.
TunnelBear works on: Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, and more.
TunnelBear also unblocks: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, SHOWTIME, DAZN, and more.
How I Tested and Ranked the Best Free VPNs for BBC iPlayer
I tested every VPN against the following criteria and ranked them by how well they performed.
- Servers in the UK — You can’t use BBC iPlayer abroad unless you’re connected to a UK server. The free VPNs on this list have servers in the UK so you can mask your IP address to access the service.
- Free plan or a money-back guarantee — Each of the VPNs in this article is either genuinely free, or has a tested money-back guarantee that you can use as a free trial.
- IP and DNS leak protection — The main way the BBC blocks access to iPlayer is by detecting IP and DNS server addresses that are outside the UK. All free VPNs on this list secure this data within encrypted connections and avoid leaks to ensure you can use BBC iPlayer.
- Fast connection speeds — For smooth, buffer-free HD streaming, your VPN needs to maintain speeds of at least 5Mbps. All of the free VPNs in this article have reliably fast speeds for streaming without lag — though bear in mind that connecting to a UK server from a faraway country will impact speeds due to distance.
- Reasonable data cap — To make sure you don’t run out of data in the middle of a show, all of the above VPNs offer a reasonable amount of data. Free VPNs usually limit the amount of bandwidth you can use per day or month. For reference, streaming in SD for an hour uses around 700MB of data.
- Ease of use and good customer service — All of the VPNs listed here have straightforward apps and customer service readily available if you have questions or issues with the service. Most free VPNs limit customer service to email or a website knowledge base, but some like ExpressVPN provide live chat options.
Using the above criteria, ExpressVPN is the top choice for BBC iPlayer. Its UK servers provide fast, reliable connections and avoid detection by the BBC’s technology. Plus it has unlimited data so you can stream as much as you want and 24/7 customer service if you encounter any issues.
Warning: 3 Free VPNs to Avoid
While there are some safe, reliable VPNs available for streaming BBC iPlayer, there are many free services that can compromise your security. During my testing and research, I found 3 services you should avoid at all costs to ensure the safety of your data and devices.
Recent tests found that Betternet VPN has high levels of malware hidden in its software. This VPN also logs an unnecessary amount of data, like your general location and non-personal logs of the websites you visit. This information can then be used to target you with ads — not ideal when you want to remain anonymous.
Cross VPN was also found to contain high levels of malware, especially on its Android app. During tests, Cross VPN was flagged by 11 different antiviruses as containing malware, especially Trojan viruses which create pathways for hackers to access your devices.
Hola VPN has been caught letting paying customers access the bandwidth and IP addresses of free users. This practice technically lets strangers use your connection for illegal activities, which then get traced back to you! Hola VPN was also found stealing bandwidth from free users and reselling it fraudulently, so make sure you never use this service.
FAQs About Watching BBC iPlayer With a Free VPN
Can I watch BBC iPlayer abroad without a VPN?
No, you can’t watch BBC iPlayer from abroad if you’re not using a VPN. Due to copyright and content rights, BBC TV shows and channels can only be streamed or downloaded from inside the UK.
BBC iPlayer blocks non-UK IP addresses to prevent individuals abroad from using the service. A VPN alternative that hides your true IP address, like a proxy, won’t work because proxies identify themselves to the website. Even though your IP is hidden, BBC iPlayer knows you’re using a proxy and blocks access.
Most free VPNs can’t get through this technology either, as they don’t have the resources to effectively mask your IP address and avoid detection. However, all of the VPNs on this list can connect to BBC iPlayer with their UK servers. A service like ExpressVPN has obfuscated servers that avoid the BBC’s detection technology to access the player when abroad. You can even try ExpressVPN risk-free. It’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee — if you find it’s not right for you, you can get a full refund.
Are VPNs legal?
Yes, VPNs are legal in most countries. Using a VPN to protect your data and identity when online is legal — it only becomes illegal if you’re actively using a VPN to break the law.
That said, in some countries, any use of VPNs is illegal or heavily regulated. Countries like Russia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, and China allow limited access to VPNs that are government-approved. This means it’s only legal to use VPNs that allow the government access to user data. In other countries, like Iraq, Oman, and Turkey, the use of VPNs is prohibited.
Before you use a VPN to access BBC iPlayer, I recommend making sure you’re familiar with the legalities surrounding VPNs in your location. My team and I don’t condone any illegal activities, so make sure you’re not in breach of any laws before you use a VPN.
Can BBC iPlayer block my account for using a VPN?
Accessing content from outside the UK that you aren’t allowed to, or helping others do the same. For example: using a VPN service so you can watch BBC iPlayer when you’re outside the UK
To make sure you can watch the content you’ve rightfully paid for when you’re abroad, I recommend using a top-tier VPN. A service like ExpressVPN has multiple UK servers that easily access BBC iPlayer, plus fast speeds and unlimited data so you can stream without interruption.
How does BBC iPlayer detect VPN connections?
It’s reasonable to surmise that BBC iPlayer uses IP address detection and DNS filtering to find and block VPN server connections. However, the BBC doesn’t go into detail about how it detects VPN connections, so it’s not possible to say for certain.
While a VPN makes your IP address appear to be in a different location (for BBC iPlayer, in the UK), the BBC can detect a VPN connection in several ways. For example, a connection that only sends encrypted data packets is a sign that a VPN is in use. Multiple connections from different accounts using the same IP address also suggests use of a VPN. BBC iPlayer will block suspicious connections and blacklist VPN IP addresses as soon as one is detected.
In order to overcome these detection methods, your free VPN needs to have a frequently updated server network and leak protection. By regularly updating the network, VPNs can provide new IP addresses that haven’t been discovered by the BBC. With IP and DNS leak protection, your true data is securely encrypted and cannot be seen by the BBC, preventing a block by the service. All of the VPNs on this list have regularly tested and updated UK servers and total leak protection for easy access to BBC iPlayer.
Why is my BBC iPlayer not working even with a VPN?
Even the best VPNs sometimes struggle to access BBC iPlayer. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can try to start watching BBC iPlayer.
- Try a different server in the UK — The server you initially chose may be down for maintenance, or it might already have been detected by BBC iPlayer as a VPN server. Simply switch to a new server in the UK and refresh BBC iPlayer to see if it connects.
- Reset your internet connection — If your internet connection is too slow to support your VPN, you can refresh the connection and reset your IP address. This can help resolve a slow connection caused by IP issues and allow your VPN to work properly.
- Make sure your VPN app is updated — Check to see that your VPN is running the latest version and if not, update the app. This could patch any bugs or issues the VPN has and enable a smooth connection to BBC iPlayer.
- Clear your browser and DNS cache — Your location data can sometimes be stored in your browser’s cookies, which BBC iPlayer can detect and use to block your access. Clearing your browser data removes this information so you can connect to BBC iPlayer easily.
- Contact customer support — If these options aren’t effective, you can reach out to your VPN’s customer support and ask for advice. Most free VPNs take a long time to respond to queries, and some don’t even have customer support available. The free VPNs listed above all have customer support options for you to contact if needed — ExpressVPN’s customer support is available 24/7, with live chat responses taking less than a minute to connect.
Can I use a free proxy to unblock BBC iPlayer?
Free proxies can’t reliably unblock BBC iPlayer from outside the UK. A proxy acts as a middleman between your device and the BBC website, masking your true IP address and hiding your location. However, a proxy only adds a basic layer of security and won’t avoid detection by iPlayer’s advanced technology. Your connection won’t be encrypted and some free proxies have been known to log your traffic and steal your bandwidth!
For a reliable connection to BBC iPlayer from abroad, I recommend using a high-quality free VPN. All of the free VPNs listed here can access BBC iPlayer through their UK servers. They each have consistent speeds for lag-free streaming and leak protection to secure your data while connected. If you opt for the #1 VPN choice, ExpressVPN provides unlimited data for unlimited iPlayer streaming.
Can I use a free VPN to watch Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, DAZN, and other streaming sites?
Yes, you can use a free VPN to watch other streaming sites — but you may not be able to access every streaming service you want. Some free VPNs block access to sites like Netflix and Hulu, reserving them for premium customers. This is to ensure paying users can always connect, and to encourage you to upgrade your subscriptions.
Many free services don’t have the technology to avoid detection by streaming services, which are constantly working to block unauthorized access due to copyright and content control. The majority of free VPNs won’t connect you to streaming sites, and many aren’t safe to use as they won’t protect your anonymity while you’re connected to the server.
If you want to reliably connect to your streaming services, I recommend using a high-quality free VPN like those listed above. A top-tier service like ExpressVPN can access Netflix libraries in the US, UK, and more, as well as Disney+, Hulu, and DAZN. This is because of its vast server network and obfuscated servers that hide the VPN connection, making it simple to stream content from your favorite services.
Start Watching BBC iPlayer Anywhere You Travel Today!
Not being able to watch your favorite shows on iPlayer when you’re abroad is frustrating, especially when you’ve bought your TV license. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend even more money to access the content you’ve paid for when you travel — you can use a high-quality free VPN to access BBC iPlayer from anywhere.
All 3 of the VPNs above provide reliable access to BBC iPlayer, with servers in the UK and connections that go undetected by the BBC’s technology. After extensive testing, I found ExpressVPN is the top choice VPN for BBC iPlayer.
ExpressVPN’s fast speeds and high-level encryption provide easy access to iPlayer from anywhere — you can stream as much as you want without lag or buffering. Best of all, you can test ExpressVPN completely risk-free — your money is protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not satisfied, you can get a full no-questions-asked refund.