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How to watch UK TV abroad: Watch BBC, Sky and other streaming services when you travel abroad

Don't miss out on your favourite British TV shows and streaming services when you're travelling abroad

The UK is blessed with a plethora of great TV content from the likes of the BBC, Sky, ITV and Channel 4. And that’s not including streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video – many of which often have a larger catalogue of films and TV shows compared to other countries.

Unfortunately, almost all the above UK-exclusive streaming services – like BBC iPlayer and so on – are blocked if you try to access them from outside the UK. Streaming services use your IP address to determine where you’re based. As soon as it determines that you’re based outside the UK, you’ll get a message saying that the service is not available in your country.

To watch free TV services like BBC iPlayer, ITV iPlayer, All 4 and Sky Go, you may need a British TV licence and an existing account with the service you’re trying to watch. However, in many cases, it’s possible to access them even without a TV licence and you can always create a free account. Paid services like Sky’s Now subsidiary, on the other hand, will ask for your credit card details after you choose a subscription package, so that’s also something to bear in mind.

Some streaming services such as Netflix are easy to access abroad, thanks to their worldwide availability. So, for example, if you created a Netflix account in the UK, you’ll still be able to login and use the service in, say, Spain. But the only caveat here is that you’ll now see the Netflix Spain catalogue instead of the Netflix UK one.

There’s an easy way to access the UK catalogue of any of the aforementioned streaming services and UK-based services like BBC iPlayer, ITV iPlayer, All 4 and Sky whenever you travel abroad. To do this, simply choose a good VPN service (like ExpressVPN), change your location within the VPN service to the UK, go to the streaming service you want, and log in using your existing details.

READ NEXT: Best UK streaming service

How to watch UK TV abroad using ExpressVPN

Remember we spoke about streaming services tracking your IP address at the top? A VPN (short for “virtual private network”) works by encrypting your connection and spoofing your IP address. Good VPN services – including the ones we mention below – have thousands of servers spread generously across the globe. Before turning on the VPN, you can choose which country’s server you want to use.

While the VPN is active, your browsing activity is encrypted, making it much harder to track. For example, neither the sites you’re visiting nor your internet service provider can see what you’re doing. The VPN itself does, but most services will pledge to not keep a record of your activity.

So, if you wanted to watch US Netflix in the UK, for example, you would use a VPN to tunnel your traffic to the US. The same kind of technique works in reverse, too, letting you choose to route your traffic via the UK when you’re abroad and access any other local services.

Among all the VPNs we’ve tested, we rate ExpressVPN the best because it’s the only VPN service that worked with all UK streaming services when we last reviewed it. It’s worth mentioning at this stage that streaming services and VPNs have a constant game of cat-and-mouse where one is trying to outsmart the other. That said, ExpressVPN has always found ways to stay one step ahead of the curve. In fact, their 24/7 customer support will even go so far as to tell you which server to use if you want to watch a specific UK channel from elsewhere.

READ NEXT: How to use a VPN

We’ll show you how to use ExpressVPN on Windows PC, Android, iOS, Chrome, and Firefox. The service has the fastest speeds and its strict no-logs policy, strong encryption, useful video tutorials and 24/7 customer support only enhance its stellar reputation. You can use it on five devices at the same time, or just install it on your router to access the VPN on all your home devices. ExpressVPN costs just £7 per month and you get three months free when you first sign up to its 12-month plan. The service has a no-questions-asked 30-day money-back guarantee, so you really have nothing to lose by signing up and giving it a whirl.

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How to watch UK TV abroad on a PC

Download and install the ExpressVPN PC client. If you don’t see the UK as your selected location when you open your PC, click the three-dot button, select United Kingdom followed by one of the listed locations, then click the power button to turn on the VPN to switch to your chosen location. Your VPN will now route all your traffic through the UK.

Next, open up BBC iPlayer or another UK-based streaming service and you’ll notice that you’ll be able to access all of the content as if you were browsing from the UK. If you can’t access it, simply try another location in the United Kingdom, or contact ExpressVPN’s 24/7 online customer support who will be able to help you.

How to watch UK TV abroad on your phone or tablet

If you want to watch UK TV from your phone or tablet, then you’ll need to install the separate ExpressVPN app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Don’t worry, one ExpressVPN subscription can be used on five devices at the same time. Log in to the app using your ExpressVPN account details when prompted, then connect to a UK location in the same way you did on your PC: by tapping the three-dot button. Once connected, you’ll be able to access all of your UK websites and streaming services.

How to watch UK TV abroad in your browser

ExpressVPN also has extensions for Chrome and Firefox. To install these, click the three lines at the top left of the PC client and click Options in the menu that appears. Then click the Browsers tab, followed by the Get Browser Extension button. You’ll be directed to the relevant extension page from where you can install it on your default browser. Follow the onscreen prompts to install it, then open the browser extension, click Choose Location, select United Kingdom and choose one of the available options. You can now visit any UK website to access its content.

We haven’t had any problems using ExpressVPN. However, if you encounter a problem or just want general help about how to set up or use the service, then head to the ExpressVPN page and click the green Live Chat button at the bottom right to speak to someone who will instantly answer your question. They will even tell you which location is the best one to use to access a specific website, or to watch a particular movie or TV series. If neither of these work, it’s also the place where you can ask for your money back.

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Other VPN services that let you watch UK TV abroad

Even though there are many VPN services, not all of them let you watch UK TV abroad. Two other VPN services that we can confidently say unblock most (but not all) UK TV and streaming websites are NordVPN and Surfshark. Both VPN services are cheaper than ExpressVPN, though not necessarily as fast, based on our latest test results. However, if you have a good internet connection (at least 50MBPS), this shouldn’t be a problem.

NordVPN: Our second-best VPN shares many of the same features as ExpressVPN, including thousands of servers spread generously across the globe, an independent audit, six connected devices at the same time, a 24/7 customer support policy and a 30-day money-back guarantee. Its PC client has a nice map-based interface, from which you can choose the UK, then simply browse the web as you would normally to access the best content that UK TV has to offer.

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Surfshark: Surfshark is one of the newer VPNs on the block, but it’s also the cheapest and one subscription covers unlimited devices – something that none of our other top VPNs offer. Following a recent update, Surfshark now lets you access a variety of British streaming services, including BBC iPlayer and Sky Go when you’re outside the country.

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CyberGhost VPN: Our third pick for streaming is CyberGhost, a Romania-based provider that has, in our tests, always done a decent job at unblocking Netflix. It doesn’t perform as well with other streaming services, though, which is why we rank it last. Still, considering its reasonable price it may be a good option if you’re mainly interested in getting into UK Netflix.

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How to watch UK TV abroad: Live TV

To watch live UK TV from anywhere in the world using your web browser, without installing any software or browser plugins, simply head to TVPlayer (the site will show up in French for UK readers). This useful website lets you instantly live stream a variety of different free-to-air channels, including BBC One, BBC Two, BBC News and CBBC, Channel 5 and a host of other Freeview channels.

You can try the service for free by creating an account, but if you like it, then it’s worth subscribing to the Premium service because doing this unlocks many different features, including no adverts, HD broadcasts, catch up TV, the ability to stream on any two devices simultaneously, and even stream content from your device to your TV using a Chromecast.

The premium service costs £6.99 per month or £69.90 per year and the latter plan gives you two months free. Both plans give you unlimited access to over 25 Premium channels, apart from all the free-to-air channels. This is much cheaper than watching TV at home because – as you may have heard by now – the annual UK TV licence fee is now £159.