How to watch Netflix, BBC iPlayer, etc when travelling overseas

It always surprises me when I can’t access services that I pay for in the UK such as Netflix or UK TV (BBC iPlayer, itv, etc) when I am travelling. The TV and film industries places out of date and draconian copyright restrictions on the video service providers that force them to limit access to viewers located within their country/region. Which means that when you’re travelling overseas, you’re out of luck when it comes to streaming video from home.

Or perhaps not. If you could access the services from a UK IP address even though you are overseas, then you would be ok – you would have access to every service despite your physical location.

There are two ways to achieve this. The first way is to use a proxy server that is located in your home country and simply passes on your requests to the video host. This approach is fine for basic web access (generally), but they don’t handle video very well if at all.

The second way is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). When you connect into a VPN, everything acts as if you are a “local” user on that network. If you were to connect to a VPN in your home country, your IP address would be located in that region and every service you connect to would work as if you were physically there (geographically speaking).

Therefore, the solution to connecting to services like Netflix or BBC iPlayer or any other service that is restricted geographically is to find a VPN who’s access point to the internet is within your home country / territory.

Sounds complicated right? Well, it couldn’t be easier. There is a service called Hotspot Shield that allows you to do just that… and it’s pretty awesome.

I’m writing this post on iPad and so the examples will be relevant to the iOS platform, but the service also runs for Android, PC, and Mac. The service is primarily aimed at providing secure, private internet access – but it works just as well for the “geo-redirecting” your IP address so that you can watch Netflix when in Paris or check the BBC News when in Cologne.

Simply go to the App Store (link) and download the app. You get 7 days for free, but then can subscribe to the service either £0.69 per month or for £7.99 per year (seems like a bargain to me).

You then need to install a profile. There are a number of choices and when you select them, it bounces you through a number of screens – one of which involves adding your passcode, which is fine.

Basically, for the purposes of watching video services you want two options:

1. Manual. The default is “always on” – which means that you will constantly be connected to the VPN. Which is fine if you want to take advantage of the secure browsing, but it may affect connectivity with your devices on your home or work network. And so my preference would be to select manual.

2. Country. The default setting is United States and so if you want to connect to the UK, then you need to select the United Kingdom.

Each time you select one of these options, you have to configure a new “profile”.

Here’s the main screen:

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You first click on the “Protected” section and change the option to “Manual”

You’ll then be asked if you want to Install Profile (click on the button):

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Then when you are presented with the following screen, click on the “Install” button:

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If you want to set your geolocation to be based in the UK, then follow the same steps – but this time tap on the “Country” section and select “United Kingdom (you then go through the process of installing another profile).

You now have a manual VPN profile. To enable this, you go the Settings app (the one with gears) and you will see a VPN option. If you tap on this, you can select which VPN to use – and you can enable your new “Hotspot Shield GB – Manual” profile… and away you go (just click on the On/Off switch).

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I’ve been using this for a little bit now and have found it flawless. If you are travelling and want to use internet video services from home when travelling – then give this app/service a try.

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UPDATE: Some apps do detect the VPN and will not allow you to view their content when overseas using this technique.  TVCatchup — an app that allows you to watch live UK tv is one of these.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the article Matt. For those who live outside USA and want to access Netflix, you can use UnoTelly. It changes your IP address so you can get US Netflix.

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