5 Best Free VPNs for BBC iPlayer in 2024: Expert Ranked

Updated on: May 6, 2024
Fact Checked by Hazel Shaw
Kristel van Hoof Kristel van Hoof
Updated on: May 6, 2024

Short on time? Here’s the best free VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2024:

  • 🥇 ExpressVPN : Not 100% free, but it’s the best VPN for streaming BBC iPlayer in 2024. It’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it risk-free for a month. It has multiple reliable servers in the UK, advanced security features, the fastest speeds in the industry, unlimited data, and affordable plans.

It’s difficult to find a free VPN that works with BBC iPlayer — many free VPNs don’t offer servers in the UK, and those that do often don’t work with BBC iPlayer. Free VPNs may also have speeds that are too slow for streaming, and they can be risky to use because they sometimes lack must-have security features.

Instead, it’s better to use a low-cost premium VPN for streaming BBC iPlayer like ExpressVPN. Premium VPNs come with servers in the UK, reliably work with BBC iPlayer, maintain faster speeds, have unlimited data, and offer advanced security features.

But if you want a free VPN, my colleagues and I found the best ones for BBC iPlayer. My colleagues in the UK tested all of the free VPNs listed here and confirmed they work with the streaming service 100% of the time. That said, keep in mind that they do come with data caps that will limit the amount of content you can stream.

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Quick summary of the best free VPNs for BBC iPlayer in 2024:

  • 1. 🥇ExpressVPN — Best overall VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2024 with fast speeds and reliable UK servers.
  • 2. 🥈CyberGhost VPN — Has BBC iPlayer optimized servers + a 24-hour free trial and 45-day money-back guarantee.
  • 3. 🥉Windscribe — Best totally free VPN for streaming BBC iPlayer with server locations in the UK.
  • 4. hide.me — Easy-to-use free VPN for streaming BBC iPlayer (great for beginners) with fast speeds.
  • 5. TunnelBear — Good free VPN for watching BBC iPlayer with fun apps and an intuitive interface.

🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best Overall VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2024

🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best Overall VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2024
ExpressVPN is the best VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2024. It maintains the fastest speeds on this list, has reliable servers in the UK, comes with unlimited data, and is safe to use. The VPN isn’t completely free, but it does offer a money-back guarantee. This means that you can test ExpressVPN risk-free for 30 days.

Since I’m based in Finland, my colleague in the UK tested ExpressVPN with BBC iPlayer (BBC iPlayer is only available to UK residents with a TV license). He confirmed that ExpressVPN worked with BBC iPlayer 100% of the time. I also like how it has 5 UK server locations (London, East London, Wembley, Docklands, and Midlands) so you can choose the location closest to you for the fastest speeds.

One of my favorite things about ExpressVPN is that it’s super fast. It has industry-leading connection speeds that are excellent for streaming — in my speed tests, I watched videos in Ultra HD videos without any buffering.

ExpressVPN is compatible with iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux, routers, and more (it even offers browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox). I particularly like its MediaStreamer feature, which lets you use the VPN on devices that don’t have a native app for it — you can stream BBC iPlayer on your smart TV and game consoles without problems.

ExpressVPN keeps you safe online with all of the industry-standard VPN security features like AES 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and a strict no-logs policy. Plus, it comes with advanced security features like TrustedServer technology, which ensures that all of your data is erased once a server gets rebooted.

ExpressVPN’s plans start at $6.67 / month. The annual plan is the best value, and it includes 3 extra months for free.

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Bottom Line:

ExpressVPN is the best VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2024 — it consistently works with BBC iPlayer on all of its UK servers (confirmed by my UK colleagues), it has blazing-fast speeds, it offers unlimited data, and it provides robust security features. Plus, it has native apps for a wide range of devices and offers MediaStreamer for installing on devices that don’t have native VPN support. It’s not totally free, but it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for all plans, so you can try it risk-free.

Read the full ExpressVPN review

🥈2. CyberGhost VPN — Free 24-Hour Trial & Excellent Streaming Support

🥈2. CyberGhost VPN — Free 24-Hour Trial & Excellent Streaming Support

CyberGhost VPN is an excellent choice for watching BBC iPlayer. While it’s not a totally free service, it comes with a free 24-hour trial so that you can fully test the VPN with BBC iPlayer to make sure it works — my UK colleagues assure me they had no issues connecting. In addition, it also backs all of its long-term plans with a very generous 45-day money-back guarantee.

CyberGhost has dedicated streaming servers for BBC iPlayer that are designed to always work with the platform and provide fast streaming speeds. What’s more, the VPN also has 100+ other streaming servers that are optimized to work with 50+ other streaming platforms, including popular UK sites like Channel 4, Sky Go, and ITV.

In terms of speeds, CyberGhost VPN is impressive. It loads sites instantly, and HD videos play with no buffering. Even 4K videos take only 3 seconds to load. That said, it’s still slower than ExpressVPN.

I also like the VPN’s Smart Rules feature, which lets you automate VPN connections. For example, you can use it to configure the VPN app to automatically connect you to the dedicated BBC iPlayer server and open the BBC iPlayer app on launch.

CyberGhost VPN also offers advanced security features, including strong leak protection, perfect forward secrecy, and RAM-only servers. Its no-logs policy has been audited independently and the provider publishes regular transparency reports detailing how it didn’t comply with user data requests.

CyberGhost VPN’s plans start at $2.19 / month. In addition to the 45-day money-back guarantee, there’s also a 14-day money-back guarantee for the shortest plan.

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Bottom Line:

CyberGhost VPN is not free but has a free 24-hour trial. On top of that, it has dedicated streaming servers for BBC iPlayer and 50+ other streaming sites. It maintains fast speeds and has excellent security features. Its long-term plans are covered by a 45-day money-back guarantee and the shortest plan has a 14-day money-back guarantee.

Read the full CyberGhost VPN review

🥉3. Windscribe — Best Free VPN for Streaming BBC iPlayer

🥉3. Windscribe — Best Free VPN for Streaming BBC iPlayer

Windscribe is my top pick for a totally free VPN for BBC iPlayer. Free users get access to 10+ server locations, including 2 in the UK. My colleague in the UK told me both of these UK servers worked with BBC iPlayer, along with other streaming platforms like Netflix UK and Amazon Prime Video UK.

However, Windscribe comes with a data cap of 10 GB per month (only 2 GB if you don’t provide your email address), meaning that you can only stream for around 4 hours in HD. Luckily, you can get an extra 5 GB per month if you tweet about Windscribe.

I like that Windscribe’s free version offers unlimited simultaneous device connections. This means that you can share your account with your household and let everyone stream BBC iPlayer.

Its speeds allowed me to stream YouTube videos in HD without buffering. When I tested its servers, it only took 3 seconds for websites to load — but the speeds weren’t as fast as ExpressVPN.

Windscribe is compatible with many platforms like iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, and more. Unfortunately, its free plan doesn’t come with a smart DNS feature (unlike ExpressVPN).

Windscribe also offers premium plans starting at $3.00 / month, giving you access to all of its servers (in 68 countries) and unlimited data. The premium plans offer a 3-day window for a full refund as long as you used less than 10 GB.

Bottom Line:

Windscribe’s free plan consistently works with BBC iPlayer (confirmed by my UK colleagues). It also has fast speeds and comes with unlimited connections. Unfortunately, it comes with a data cap of 10 GB. Upgrading to its premium plans allows you to access its full server network and stream without any restrictions.

Read the full Windscribe review

4. hide.me — User-friendly VPN for BBC iPlayer (Great for Beginners)

4. hide.me — User-friendly VPN for BBC iPlayer (Great for Beginners)

hide.me’s free plan offers a UK server that consistently works with BBC iPlayer, and new VPN users will love how easy to use it is. My colleagues in the UK confirmed it worked with BBC iPlayer every time they connected.

I like how you can choose your default server location, allowing you to connect to it within seconds. Plus, I like that you can filter the servers by ping (latency).

As well as BBC iPlayer, hide.me works with other streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Keep in mind that the VPN comes with a data cap of 10 GB per month, though.

I was a bit disappointed with hide.me’s speeds — they were much slower than ExpressVPN. I asked my colleague in the UK to test out the UK server, and although she had base speeds (without a VPN) high enough to stream in Ultra HD, she could only stream in HD when testing its UK server.

hide.me is compatible with iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, and more. It even comes with browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. However, it only offers 1 device connection and doesn’t come with smart DNS.

You can get a hide.me premium plan for $2.22 / month. This allows you to stream without the data cap, you get up to 10 connections, and all plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

hide.me is a user-friendly VPN that works with BBC iPlayer. The VPN is also compatible with a range of devices and has all of the essential security features. Unfortunately, its speeds were a bit slow, and it comes with a data cap of 10 GB per month.

Read the full hide.me review

5. TunnelBear — Very Fun & User-Friendly VPN for BBC iPlayer

5. TunnelBear — Very Fun & User-Friendly VPN for BBC iPlayer

TunnelBear’s free plan works with BBC iPlayer without issues (confirmed by our UK testers), and the VPN is also fun to use — that’s because its apps feature a digital map with cute animated bears that dig a tunnel to a VPN server’s location when you connect to it. What’s more, on mobile, the VPN app even roars when you connect to a server!

Unfortunately, TunnelBear comes with a data cap of 2 GB per month, which is just enough for streaming in SD for around 2 hours. Keep in mind that you can use TunnelBear on as many devices as you want simultaneously, but you’ll run out of data quickly.

I had average speeds with TunnelBear but was still able to stream without any slowdowns. However, TunnelBear slowed down my speeds a bit more than ExpressVPN, CyberGhost VPN, or Windscribe.

TunnelBear works with iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows, and it offers browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Unfortunately, there’s no smart DNS, and the VPN is not compatible with smart TVs or routers.

TunnelBear’s premium plans start at $3.33 / month and allow unlimited data. Unfortunately, there’s no money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

TunnelBear works with BBC iPlayer and comes with cute, easy-to-use VPN apps. The VPN has average speeds, provides a large server network with a reliable UK server, and allows unlimited device connections. Unfortunately, it only offers 2 GB of data per month. Its paid plans allow you to stream BBC iPlayer without any limitations, but there’s no money-back guarantee.

Read the full TunnelBear review

Quick Comparison Table

VPN Starting Price for Premium Plans Smart DNS Data Per Month Number of UK Server Locations Simultaneous Device Connections
1.🥇ExpressVPN $6.67 / month Unlimited 5 Up to 8
2.🥈CyberGhost VPN $2.19 / month Unlimited 3 7
3.🥉Windscribe $3.00 / month 10 GB (get 5 GB extra if you tweet the company) 2 Unlimited
4. hide.me $2.22 / month 10 GB 1 1
5. TunnelBear $3.33 / month 2 GB 1 Unlimited

How to Choose the Best Free VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2024

  • Make sure it has server locations in the UK. BBC iPlayer is only available in the UK, so you need a VPN with UK servers. I made sure that all VPNs listed here offer at least 1 UK server location.
  • Test if it works with BBC iPlayer. A good VPN will offer reliable servers that consistently work with BBC iPlayer. My colleague in the UK tested all the VPNs on this list multiple times a day to ensure that you can watch BBC iPlayer content whenever you want — and they all worked.
  • Look for a VPN with fast speeds. All VPNs slow down your connection speeds due to the encryption process. A good free VPN should have speeds fast enough to stream BBC iPlayer in high quality without any significant slowdowns. ExpressVPN had the fastest speeds during my tests.
  • Pick a VPN with a large data cap or unlimited data allowance. Streaming in SD consumes about 1 GB per hour, while HD streaming uses around 3 GB per hour. With a VPN that offers a substantial data allowance, you can enjoy extended streaming sessions on BBC iPlayer and other platforms without worrying about data limitations.
  • Choose a VPN with excellent security features. For the protection of your online information while streaming BBC iPlayer, it’s essential to have industry-standard security features such as 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch or firewall, and a strict no-logs policy. All the VPNs included in this list provide these security features and more.

Risks & Disadvantages of Using a Free VPN

  • Slow speeds. Many free VPNs come with small server networks that often result in overcrowding and thus slow speeds. In addition, some free VPNs throttle speeds on free plans.
  • Poor streaming support. Free VPNs often don’t allow streaming or only sometimes work with popular streaming sites. The best VPNs for streaming like ExpressVPN have servers that consistently work with streaming services.
  • Data caps. Free VPNs usually limit the amount of data you can use per month, which is often only enough for streaming just a few hours per month.
  • Logging and selling your personal information. Some free VPNs make a profit by logging and selling your data to third parties (these parties use your data to generate targeted ads). To prevent this, make sure you’re using a VPN with a strict no-logs policy — ExpressVPN’s no-logs policy has been independently audited and confirmed multiple times.
  • Poor security. Free VPNs often lack essential security features such as a kill switch or strong encryption. This basically defeats the purpose of using a VPN since you’re not protecting your online data.

Affordable Alternatives

Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut

  • Hotspot Shield. Hotspot Shield has a free plan with fast speeds and unlimited data, but it unfortunately doesn’t have a free server in the UK and lacks streaming support. In addition, it only allows you to connect 1 device.
  • Proton VPN. Proton VPN has a really good free plan with unlimited data (which is rare for free VPNs). However, it doesn’t offer any free servers in the UK and doesn’t allow streaming, so you can’t use this VPN to watch BBC iPlayer content.
  • IPVanish. IPVanish is a premium VPN that offers unlimited data, provides unlimited connections, and has an extensive server network. Unfortunately, my colleague in the UK said it didn’t work with BBC iPlayer during his tests.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I watch BBC iPlayer for free?

Yes, you can. BBC iPlayer is a free streaming service for residents in the UK only and the costs are covered by your annual UK TV license. All you have to do is make an account and you can start streaming your favorite channels.

If you want to securely stream BBC iPlayer content with a VPN, you’ll need a good streaming VPN that has at least 1 server in the UK and works with BBC iPlayer. ExpressVPN ticks both boxes — it works with the streaming service and has 5 locations in the UK, so you’ll be able to find a nearby local server for the best possible speeds.

What if BBC iPlayer doesn’t work with my VPN?

To avoid that, make sure you’re using a VPN with reliable UK servers, unlimited data, and fast speeds (I prefer using ExpressVPN because it always works with BBC iPlayer).

If you still run into issues, here’s how to solve this:

  • Disconnect and reconnect the VPN. This will connect you to a different server. Sometimes it also helps to switch to a different UK server location if the VPN offers multiple options.
  • Reset your internet connection. Sometimes your internet connection might be too slow to actually work with your VPN. Rebooting your router can help to solve slow connection issues.
  • Use customer support. Ask your VPN’s customer support about the best servers available to watch BBC iPlayer.

Can a free VPN affect the streaming quality on BBC iPlayer?

Yes — all VPNs slow down your connection speed because of the encryption process and the extra time it needs to get routed through the VPN server. But with a good free BBC iPlayer VPN, you’ll still be able to enjoy streaming your favorite content without too many interruptions.

If speed is a priority, I suggest getting an affordable VPN. ExpressVPN doesn’t have a free plan, but it has great plans that give you super fast speeds for streaming. In my speed tests, I could barely tell I was connected to a VPN.

Can I use BBC iPlayer without a UK TV license?

No. According to BBC iPlayer’s terms and conditions, you need to have a UK TV license to watch shows on BBC iPlayer. If you have a UK TV license and want to protect your online security or boost your streaming speeds on BBC iPlayer when your ISP is throttling them, a reliable VPN like ExpressVPN or CyberGhost VPN lets you connect to a local UK server and securely watch your favorite shows.

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About the Author
Kristel van Hoof
Updated on: May 6, 2024

About the Author

Kristel van Hoof is a former tech researcher and writer for SafetyDetectives with a keen interest in online privacy and cybersecurity. For more than 3 years now, she has been testing and reviewing VPNs and other products for online data protection. When she’s not writing for Safety Detectives, she's dancing with her kids, traveling around the world, and cooking her favorite dishes.