If you’re a British expat, you’ve probably found that you can’t access your usual services like the BBC iPlayer from abroad. Some countries even block Skype, making it difficult to call your friends back home. Luckily, you can bypass regional blocking and stay protected by connecting to a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
VPNs keep you safe by encrypting your network traffic. This prevents it from being read by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), hackers, and anyone else who might be monitoring your network. Further, if you route your internet traffic through one of your VPN’s British servers, geo-restricted websites can’t tell that you’re actually located elsewhere.
For those of you who want to cut straight to the chase, these are the best VPNs for use in the UK or to access UK content and TV from outside the UK:
- NordVPN Our #1 choice! Best VPN for both those in the UK and outside the UK who want to access UK content. Works with BBC iPlayer, Netflix, SkyGo and most other UK and international TV streaming video services. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Surfshark The best low-cost option for streaming British TV abroad. No-logs provider with powerful security features and no connection limit.
- ExpressVPN Veteran provider with a great reputation on privacy and security. Works with most major streaming platforms.
- CyberGhost Beginner friendly. Suitable for streaming content and with strong privacy features.
- IPVanish Fast connection speeds and good privacy features. Doesn’t reliably work with Netflix or iPlayer.
- PrivateVPN An increasingly popular service with fast connection speeds. Good for streaming and online privacy.
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There are numerous VPN services to choose from but not all of them are suitable for streaming British content. To find the best VPN services for UK expats, we looked for services with the following qualities:
- Unblocks popular UK streaming services (BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4)
- Fast connection speeds and several UK servers to choose from
- Strong encryption
- Minimal logging or preferably, no logging whatsoever
We explain more about our UK expat VPN testing methodology below.
Best VPNs for UK expats
Here is our full list of the best VPNs for UK expats:
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN offers a staggering 600+ UK-based servers. It can unblock all the major British streaming platforms including BBC iPlayer, Netflix UK, ITV Hub, Sky Go, and All 4. Every server is optimized for HD streaming, and this VPN’s speeds are the fastest we’ve seen, so content should play without any buffering or stuttering. No limit to what you can watch with unlimited data included as standard.
NordVPN even lets you access Facebook from within China. With six simultaneous connections allowed, you can protect an entire household and stream from whichever device you prefer.
This VPN simplifies online security by including an ad-blocker and anti-malware functionality. It features 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection, and an application-specific kill switch. It’s great for privacy-conscious users with its no-logging policy and subscriptions can be paid for in bitcoin.
NordVPN has apps for Windows, Linux, Android, MacOS, and iOS. It can be manually configured to work with selected routers.
NordVPN speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||460 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||349 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||299 Mbps|
- Extremely fast – great for streaming
- Excellent value for money
- Strong device security and privacy features
- Accepts three cryptocurrencies
- Keeps no logs
- The desktop app can be slow to connect
BEST VPN FOR BRITISH TV:NordVPN is our top choice. It works well with all the major streaming services including BBC iPlayer and Netflix, plus it boasts extremely high speeds and a 30-day money-back guarantee that lets you try it risk-free.
Read our full NordVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Surfshark operates server locations in London and Manchester. Either one is capable of unblocking popular UK streaming sites including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Netflix UK, and Sky Go. Best of all, Surfshark doesn’t put a limit on how many connected devices you have. That makes it a great budget option for a family or group of flatmates.
On top of its cord-cutting prowess, Surfshark uses strong encryption and adheres to a no-logs policy, so your privacy is secured. Torrenting is allowed and kill switches can prevent user data leaks on both desktop and mobile phones/devices. If you encounter any issues, live chat support is available around the clock.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Linux.
Surfshark speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||317 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||253 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||400 Mbps|
- Unblocks Sky Go, Netflix US & UK, and more
- Fast enough for flawless streaming
- Unlimited bandwidth and devices
- Keeps personal information safe from prying eyes
- Zero-logs provider
- Server network is smaller than most other VPNs
- Some slow speeds recorded during testing
BEST BUDGET VPN:Affordable and security-conscious, Surfshark ensures you’ll never have to trade privacy for convenience. Connect as many devices as you like and stream UK-only video from anywhere. 30-day money-back guarantee included.
Read our full Surfshark review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN has several British servers and can unblock popular services like Skype, Netflix UK, and ITV Hub, Sky Go, and BT Sport. You can easily change your real IP address to make it appear as if you are browsing from the UK, or you can select a server in a location of your choice to access other blocked content abroad. Its server networks are fast enough to play HD video without any noticeable buffering, and with unlimited data, it’s a strong choice for watching British TV from abroad.
This provider takes privacy seriously. It uses 256-bit military-grade encryption and perfect forward secrecy to keep your online activities secure. There’s also a kill switch and DNS leak protection, and no logs are maintained that can be traced to an individual user. Further, ExpressVPN accepts bitcoin payments and has an optional .onion site for those who want to remain as anonymous as possible.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. Manual configuration is required for supported wireless routers.
ExpressVPN speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||381 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||310 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||298 Mbps|
- Works with ITV Hub, Sky Go, and other British TV content
- Works with other streaming services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and many more
- Fast and reliable connection speeds
- Great privacy and security features
- A little more expensive than some rivals
- Doesn’t provide much control over advanced features
HIGHLY VERSATILE:ExpressVPN is quick and reliable with a strong security focus, a large network, and great unblocking ability. It even comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you change your mind.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
CyberGhost has more than 1,000 servers in the UK. It offers a simple, user-friendly interface that allows you to select servers optimized for a specific purpose. Options include unblocking sites — such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, and Eurosport — or web browsing anonymously on platforms like Facebook. With consistent connections and fast speeds, streaming UK TV isn’t a problem at all.
CyberGhost, like NordVPN, offers anti-malware and ad-blocking features. It utilizes 256-bit encryption, automatic HTTPS redirection, an internet kill switch, and protection against DNS, IPv6, and port forwarding leaks to keep its customers safe. With up to seven connections permitted per account and live customer support in case of any issues,
CyberGhost takes the inconvenience out of using a VPN. Apps are available for MacOS, Windows, Android, Linux and iOS. CyberGhost can be manually installed on certain network routers.
CyberGhost speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||853 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||480 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||312 Mbps|
- Fast download speeds
- Works with most streaming services
- Easy to use apps
- Very reasonable price
- Doesn’t work well in China
- May be too simplistic for advanced users
Beginner friendly apps:CyberGhost is fast and affordable. It has a simple set up with strong privacy credentials. Streams HD video reliably. 45-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
IPVanish’s large network includes 85 server locations+spread across Scotland and England. It’s capable of unblocking popular apps and platforms including Skype, WhatsApp, BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, All 4, and ITV Hub, plus it’s one of the fastest VPNs around. This means you can stream British content in high-definition without worrying about long buffer times or stuttering playback.
This VPN uses 256-bit encryption and offers several additional device security options, including IPv6 and DNS leak protection, OpenVPN obfuscation, a kill switch, and a LAN traffic blocker. What’s more, IPVanish has a no-logs policy. It allows any number of connections at once, making it a strong choice for those looking to browse securely from any device.
Dedicated apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV. Manual configuration is required for Linux systems and supported routers.
IPVanish speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||685 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||314 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||466 Mbps|
- Fast download speeds
- Allows torrenting
- Allows unlimited connections
- Doesn’t work with BBC iPlayer
- Doesn’t work with Amazon Prime Video
GOOD FOR TORRENTING:IPVanish is a popular choice with torrenters. Strong encryption and fast speeds make this VPN popular with Kodi and torrent users. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full IPVanish review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
PrivateVPN only offers four UK servers (all located in England) but is fast enough to stream HD content with no noticeable buffering. It can unblock BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, and even permits access to the British Netflix library, something many other VPNs struggle to do.
Up to six simultaneous connections are allowed per account. This VPN offers 256-bit encryption, an internet kill switch, a no-logging policy, and protection against IPv6 and DNS leaks. 24/7 live chat support is available, albeit with slightly longer response times outside of office hours. With your permission, the staff can even take control of your device and set everything up for you.
PrivateVPN has dedicated apps for MacOS, Windows, Android, and iOS. Linux and some routers are also supported but manual configuration is required.
PrivateVPN speed test data
|Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)||94 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)||57 Mbps|
|Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)||62 Mbps|
- Good speeds
- Works well with most streaming services
- Great unblocking ability
- Small network of servers
- Live chat isn’t 24/7
FAST SPEEDS:PrivateVPN offers fast speeds Although a newcomer, this VPN performs well for unblocking streaming sites and scored highly in our speed tests. Reliable but a bit pricey. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full PrivateVPN review.
Can I use a free VPN to access British streaming platforms?
Although you might be tempted to use a free VPN for accessing UK-based streaming services, we advise against it. Some organizations, like the BBC, have taken steps to prevent VPN users from watching their content, so in all likelihood, a free VPN just won’t work. Also, these services are almost always slower than their paid-for counterparts. This means that even if you do manage to gain access, the streaming video playback may be choppy or buffer endlessly.
As free VPN services can’t charge their users directly, they’ve been known to rely on shady tactics to generate income. These include injecting targeted ads on the pages you visit, selling your browsing habits to third parties, and using tracking cookies to keep tabs on you even after you disconnect.
Unfortunately, free VPNs have a proven track record of misleading their users. In recent years, these services have been caught coming bundled with malware and even going as far as to sell their users’ bandwidth for use in botnets. To protect yourself and your private information, we highly recommend using a reputable VPN service with a focus on customer privacy.
Useful guides to watching British TV abroad:
- How to watch BBC iPlayer abroad
- Watch ITV live abroad
- How to watch Channel 4 abroad
- Watch Sky Go abroad
How to watch UK TV online from anywhere
If this is your first time using a VPN you’ll be happy to know getting set up is a quick and simple process. Below we reveal how to start watching UK TV from abroad in less than 2 minutes.
Here’s how to watch UK TV online from abroad:
- Sign up to one of the VPN services listed above (we recommend NordVPN).
- Download and install the appropriate VPN app for your device. There will be a few different versions, so be sure to get the right one for your operating system.
- Connect to a server in the UK to get a UK IP Address.
- Try watching available content on your usual sites such as All 4 or BBC iPlayer. It should load quickly with minimal, if any, buffering. Note that you may have to clear your cookies and reload the page to see any changes.
Video: How to watch UK TV abroad with a VPN (includes tips and troubleshooting).
What else can I do with a VPN?
Aside from having problems accessing streaming channels while abroad, you may find that some governments prevent access to certain websites. Usually, only sites with extremist or illegal content are blocked, but in some cases, geographic blocking is used to enforce internet censorship (such as with China’s Great Firewall) or prevent people from contacting others outside of the country.
A VPN will allow you to access blocked services like Skype or Facebook so you can communicate with your friends and family. That said, it’s important to know that some countries, such as China and the United Arab Emirates, have laws against using a VPN. For this reason, we advise researching your country’s VPN legislation before attempting to use one.
Which services are blocked?
Depending on where you live, you might find that the services you’ve come to rely on are blocked by the government. The specific sites differ from one region to another, but if you live in China, Russia, Sri Lanka, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, or Iran, you may be unable to access the following services:
We have a more detailed list of sites blocked in China here.
Additionally, these countries tend to censor sites dedicated to the following things:
- News that is critical of the government
- Adult content
- Free exchange of information (Wikipedia, Reddit, etc)
- VPNs and internet privacy
Why can’t I access a specific site?
All of the VPNs above have been confirmed to work with the most popular British streaming platforms. That said, the companies behind these services have invested lots of time and effort into preventing VPN users from accessing their content.
Recently, streaming platforms have begun blocking IP addresses known to belong to VPN providers. As such, you may find yourself unable to stream content from geo-locked sites, even when connected to a British server with a UK IP address.
The good news is that it’s very rare for these sites to account for every suitable IP address. The solution is often as simple as switching to a different server in the same country. Some VPNs even provide the ability to switch IP addresses with the touch of a button. If you still have issues, you can contact a customer support agent who can direct you to a working server or run you through some troubleshooting steps.
Why can’t I watch a specific show or channel?
Some platforms have specific web players for individual parts of the UK. For instance, ITV Hub redirects Scottish viewers to the STV Player. If you’ve connected to a server in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, this could be the issue. Try connecting to an English server instead to see if this fixes the problem.
Despite its attempts to block VPN users, BBC iPlayer actually makes it fairly easy to watch content from other regions of the UK. You can simply open the Change location menu (in the bottom-left of the website, and in the Settings menu of the app), and select a different region.
There are hundreds of VPNs vying for your attention, and more appearing every day, but not all of them are a good fit for UK expats. We’ve carefully considered the unique needs that people in your position face and determined which aspects of a VPN are the most important. You’ll find a breakdown of our reasoning below:
- British servers: If you don’t have access to servers in the UK, you won’t be able to unblock UK-only platforms like ITV Hub. We favored providers with servers in more than one UK country, since these allow you to access a far wider range of services.
- Speed: Speed is vital, especially if you’re planning to stream live TV. We perform regular speed tests on 30+ different VPNs; to ensure you have the best possible experience, we only recommend those that provide consistently high speeds and reliable connections.
- Streaming ability: Not every VPN works with every service. Plenty struggle with BBC iPlayer, for example. We put all of our potential recommendations up against popular services like Netflix UK, ITV Hub (and STV Player), All 4, and Disney+ to see which are best for expats looking to watch TV from back home.
- Ease of use: You shouldn’t have to be a computer expert to browse the web safely. All of our top VPNs must be easy enough for a complete beginner to use. Ideally, they’d provide setup guides, live chat-based support, and an expansive help section on the website.
- Value for money: Some providers think they can charge more than their services are worth, simply because they have a recognizable name or because their users don’t really know how much similar services cost. We evaluate each VPN’s features, compare their pricing options, and recommend only those that are priced fairly.
- Security and privacy toolkit: These services are, first and foremost, privacy tools. The VPNs we recommend must have, at a minimum, bulletproof encryption, a no-logs policy, a kill switch, and protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks. We tend to favor providers that go above and beyond in this area, since attackers’ methods are always evolving.
This is just a small taste of our larger VPN testing plan. Because we perform regular tests, we’re able to analyze the differences in each service over time, and tweak our recommendations to better suit our readers’ needs.
UK VPNs for British Expats FAQ
Can I use split tunneling for BBC iPlayer traffic through my VPN?
Absolutely -- by allowing the BBC iPlayer app or website through your VPN, you ensure that traffic to and from this service will not be encrypted or routed via foreign servers. This allows you to get the highest possible speeds while making sure that important traffic (such as that from messaging apps) remains hidden from snoopers.
How can I watch Eastenders from outside the UK?
If you live in North America, you can stream Eastenders on Britbox. This costs $6.99 USD per month in the US or $8.99 CAD in Canada. Users can take advantage of a seven-day free trial in both countries. Unfortunately, there are no other international broadcasters, although you can always connect to a VPN to watch from elsewhere in the world.
Can I stream F1 from Sky UK?
Existing Sky TV customers can download and log in to the Sky Go app to watch online at no added cost. It’s also possible to live stream F1 without Sky Sports; you just have to pay for a Now TV Sky Sports pass. Prices start at £9.99 per day but discounts are available for longer subscriptions.
Is UK Netflix different to the U.S.?
Yes, Netflix UK has different shows and movies to Netflix US. In fact, most countries have their own regional library: Japan offers a wider selection of anime, for instance, while Spain has more Spanish-language content. If you’re in the UK, you’ll be able to stream (perhaps predictably) more British TV than American subscribers.
Can the BBC track your IP address?
As a result of how data is sent across the internet, any website you visit can see your IP address. Hypothetically, if the BBC suspected you of breaking its copyright, it could contact your Internet Service Provider and ask them to warn you against doing this again. However, this kind of technique is primarily used against pirates and is extremely unlikely to happen just because you’ve decided to try accessing BBC iPlayer with a VPN.
More importantly, when you connect to a VPN, your real IP address is hidden. Instead, the BBC would only have the IP address of the server you used. Even if they did get in touch with your VPN provider, most won’t respond to anything other than a legal demand and in any case, most major services refuse to log any data that personally identifies you. In other words, if you’re using a VPN, neither the BBC or anyone else can track your real IP address.
Is it more secure to use a proxy server for UK expats?
Proxy servers can seem like a strong alternative to VPNs since they don’t have to be installed and often don’t cost anything to use. However, they come with their own problems. First and foremost, there’s no guarantee they actually encrypt your traffic. Even if they do, they’ll only secure data from your internet browser and won’t let you torrent or use other apps safely.
It’s also important to remember that all of your data is traveling through this server. This may include sensitive data like passwords, usernames, and possibly even credit card information. Since there’s no easy way to tell who owns a specific proxy server, you’re essentially gambling with your personal data. In contrast, VPN companies are bound by strict data protection law and they live or die by their reputations. As such, we strongly advise against using a proxy server in any circumstance.
Is using a VPN as a UK expat legal?
It might surprise you to learn that, in most of the world, there aren’t any laws against using a VPN. Obviously, we encourage you to research your country’s local laws if there’s any doubt, but unless you’re in China, Russia, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, or the UAE, you should be fine.
Notably, using a VPN to access geo-restricted content almost always goes against a platform’s terms of service. Still, it’s extremely unlikely that anything will happen if your VPN is detected; most services just ask you to turn it off.