Listen to BBC news channels or live sports commentary from anywhere in the world
The BBC has been through an exciting couple of years. There have been management changes, a modernisation of digital content and a quest to secure a younger generation of audiences that doesn’t consume traditional broadcasting. At the heart of it all has been the transformation of BBC Sounds, an online platform that pulls together radio, podcasts and audiobooks into one streamlined service. This new platform has completely transformed the ways you can interact with the BBC’s radio and audio based content, suddenly giving their excellent international radio channels a new lease of life.
Thanks to this new and improved online service, you can listen to BBC radio regardless of whether you live in the UK or not. If you’re travelling abroad, all you need is a good VPN service such as NordVPN. A single VPN subscription covers multiple devices, letting you access UK radio – and even UK TV services – regardless of where you are in the world.
So whether you want to tune into local radio shows or listen to live football commentary of your favourite sports teams, you can do it all by simply tuning in to the right BBC radio channel from your phone, tablet or PC.
Fortunately, the BBC has a decades-long commitment to international broadcasting, and when internet radio came along, Britain’s national broadcaster chose to make all of its channels available around the globe as part of its mission to share the UK’s culture and views with the world.
Bear in mind, though, that DAB radios, whether portable or installed in your car, won’t work overseas, as most other countries are both outside the range of the BBC’s digital transmitters and use different digital radio standards, such as DAB+. So you’re going to have to try something else.
How to listen to BBC Radio abroad on a mobile device
Listening to a radio stream will use up roughly 60MB an hour. That may not be a lot if you have a generous mobile data plan, but it’s worth considering how much it will cost and whether there are other options for connecting to Wi-Fi etc. now that operators have reintroduced roaming charges.
The new BBC Sounds internet radio service is the best way forward when it comes to international listening. Some may still remember it by its former avatar, BBC iPlayer Radio, which Sounds replaced last October. You will need need to sign in to your BBC account when you first open the app.
BBC Sounds: Radio and Podcasts is a free app for Android and iOS. The good news is that the app is not geo-restricted, so you should be able to download and use it even if you’re not in the UK. One of its best features is the option to download podcasts to listen to when you’re offline.
We recommend doing both – downloading the app and podcasts for offline playback – when you’re in the UK. Doing this will guarantee that you have the app and the episodes you want to listen to offline and avoid you incurring any potential data charges associated with downloading content outside your data limit or using dodgy Wi-Fi networks.
If – for some reason – you can’t download or access the app, then one of best alternatives is a free app called British Radio (Android, iOS). This app lets you listen to most of the live BBC radio stations, and other radio stations like Heart, Magic and Absolute Radio without paying a penny. Another app that does a similar job is TuneIn Radio (Android, iOS) but this works on the freemium model, meaning you’ll need to pay to remove ads and unlock other content.
How to listen to BBC Radio abroad on a PC
Even though most people will use a mobile device to listen to BBC Radio live when on holiday, a few might still use a reliable PC or laptop, especially if you’re going to be living abroad for a length of time.
The best way to listen to BBC Radio abroad on a PC is to visit the BBC Sounds webpage. Alternatively, if you feel the urge to listen to other UK radio stations, then visit Radio UK. The website is divided into Radio, Podcasts and Top Charts and gives you access to a plethora of live streams from many different UK radio stations.
If you’re using a PC or laptop to listen to radio within Google’s Chrome browser and don’t want to navigate around the BBC Sound’s website, then you can enhance your listening experience using the official BBC Radio extension for Google Chrome. This lets you flip between the BBC’s main radio channels via a simple selector on Chrome’s toolbar.
Listen to BBC Radio abroad using a VPN
Occasionally, a BBC radio broadcast, whether live or on catch-up, will be replaced by a recorded message telling you that “due to rights restrictions this part of the programme is unavailable” – or something to that effect. This most often applies to coverage of sports and other live events that the BBC only has the licence to broadcast within the UK. The easiest way to work around such restrictions is by using a VPN.
As radio streams don’t hog bandwidth to the extent that streaming TV does, most good VPN services are perfectly adequate for virtually moving back to the UK to listen to a restricted programme. After selecting the VPN you want (we’ve featured two of our favourites below), simply change your location to the UK. Doing this will ensure that all your internet traffic is routed via a UK endpoint, so you appear to be within the UK as far as the sites, services and apps you’re using are concerned.
Apart from virtually changing your location, a VPN will also secure all your online activity, regardless of whether you’re using hotel Wi-Fi or your mobile service provider, so you can rest easy knowing that your data is in safe hands. Both the VPN services mentioned below have a strict no-logs policy.
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Two of our current favourite VPN services are NordVPN and ExpressVPN. Both cater to different budgets, but will unlock any geo-restricted content – whether it’s BBC iPlayer or BBC Sounds regardless of where in the globe you want to access your broadcast from. Apart from this, they will even let you unblock geo-restricted video streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and HBO Now. All three VPN services have a wide selection of apps for PC, Macs, Android, iOS and you can even use them simultaneously on multiple devices.
ExpressVPN is a fast, reliable service and also has 24/7 customer service and hundreds of tutorials, so you’ll never encounter any issues while installing or using it. It has its entire service publicly audited to back up its claims that it doesn’t log or store any user data whatsoever. You can use it on five devices simultaneously, making a great option for your family or even a group of friends. We even have a special offer that gives you three months free when you sign up to the 12-month plan.
Our favourite VPN overall, NordVPN is stacked with features and has servers in 60 countries. It’s more budget-friendly and can be used on up to 6 devices simultaneously, too. Its two-year plan currently costs £69 and – like ExpressVPN – it’s available for a wide range of devices, and has 24/7 customer support. It’s also got a 30-day money-back guarantee, should you change your mind.
The BBC World Service
The World Service was the BBC’s original international broadcasting medium, beginning life in 1932 as an English-language service for the remnants of Britain’s empire, “men and women, so cut off by the snow, the desert, or the sea, that only voices out of the air can reach them”. Within a decade, the service began adding languages and regions, and currently broadcasts to people around the world in 27 languages, with a broad range of programs including news, music, comedy and documentaries.
You can tune into the BBC World Service in English on standard short-wave frequencies across much of the world, but broadcasts to Central Europe ended in 2008, and to the Eastern Mediterranean in 2015, due to budget cuts. European travellers can still access the World Service via internet radio, while some long-wave and medium-wave broadcasts for other regions can be picked up in parts of Europe.