Short on time? Here’s the best free VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2023:
- 🥇 ExpressVPN: Not 100% free, but it’s the best VPN for streaming BBC iPlayer in 2023. 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 will often have their UK IP addresses blacklisted by 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, I prefer using 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.
That said, I spent weeks testing free VPNs to find the best ones for BBC iPlayer. All of the free VPNs listed here are able to access BBC iPlayer most of the time, but keep in mind that they do come with data caps that will limit the amount of content you can stream.
Quick summary of the best free VPNs for BBC iPlayer in 2023:
- 1. 🥇ExpressVPN — Best overall VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2023.
- 2. 🥈CyberGhost VPN — Free 24-hour trial & excellent for streaming.
- 3. 🥉Windscribe — Best free VPN for streaming BBC iPlayer.
- 4. hide.me — User-friendly VPN for BBC iPlayer.
- 5. TunnelBear — Good BBC iPlayer VPN with fun apps.
- Comparison of the Best Free VPNs for BBC iPlayer in 2023.
🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best Overall VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2023
ExpressVPN is my favorite VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2023. 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 fast speeds.
I could stream videos in Ultra HD without any buffering thanks to ExpressVPN’s industry-leading connection speeds. When I tested its East London and Wembley servers, websites loaded right away.
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.
ExpressVPN is the best VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2023 — it can access BBC iPlayer consistently with all of its UK servers, 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
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. 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, which regularly change their IP addresses to avoid getting blocked. 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 $2.11 / month. In addition to the 45-day money-back guarantee, there’s also a 14-day money-back guarantee for the shortest plan.
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
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 gave him instant access to BBC iPlayer, along with other streaming platforms like Netflix UK and Amazon Prime Video.
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 UK 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 $5.75 / month, giving you access to all of its servers (in more than 60 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.
Windscribe’s free plan consistently works with BBC iPlayer. 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)
hide.me’s free plan offers a UK server that consistently accesses BBC iPlayer, and new VPN users will love how easy to use it is. I could choose the UK as my default server location, which allowed me to connect to it within seconds. Plus, I like that you can filter the servers by ping (latency).
My colleague reported that hide.me’s UK server managed to access BBC iPlayer every time in his tests. Plus, hide.me works with other streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max. Keep in mind that the VPN comes with a data cap of 10 GB per month.
I was a bit disappointed with hide.me’s speeds — they were much slower than ExpressVPN. Although I had base speeds (without a VPN) high enough to stream in Ultra HD, I could only stream in HD when I tested 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 $3.84 / 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.
hide.me is a user-friendly VPN that can access BBC iPlayer quickly, though keep in mind the free plan doesn’t have streaming support. 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.
5. TunnelBear — Very Fun & User-Friendly VPN for BBC iPlayer
TunnelBear’s free plan works with BBC iPlayer without issues, 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 / year and allow unlimited data. Unfortunately, there’s no money-back guarantee.
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
Comparison of the Best Free VPNs for BBC iPlayer in 2023
|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||5|
|2.🥈CyberGhost VPN||$2.11 / month||✅||Unlimited||3||7|
|3.🥉Windscribe||$5.75 / month||❌||10 GB (get 5 GB extra if you tweet the company)||2||Unlimited|
|4. hide.me||$3.84 / month||❌||10 GB||1||1|
|5. TunnelBear||$3.33 / year||❌||2 GB||1||Unlimited|
How to Choose the Best Free VPN for BBC iPlayer in 2023
- Make sure it has server locations in the UK. You can only access BBC iPlayer from the UK, so you’ll need a VPN with UK servers. I made sure that all VPNs listed here offer at least 1 UK server location.
- Test if it can access BBC iPlayer. Streaming services try to prevent VPN usage by blocking the IP addresses of known VPN servers. However, a good VPN will offer reliable servers that can consistently access BBC iPlayer. My colleague in the UK tested all the VPNs on this list multiple times a day to ensure that you can access BBC iPlayer 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. Streaming in SD uses about 1 GB per hour and HD uses about 3 GB per hour. A VPN with a large or unlimited data allowance will let you stream your favorite channels and shows on BBC iPlayer for longer.
- Choose a VPN with strong security. A VPN should keep your online data safe while streaming BBC iPlayer. All VPNs listed here come with industry-standard VPN security features such as 256-bit AES encryption, a no-logs policy, and either a kill switch or a firewall.
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.
- Inability to access streaming sites. Free VPNs often don’t allow streaming or don’t have the resources to keep up with the VPN blocks put in place by streaming platforms. This means they don’t refresh their IPs often, resulting in many blacklisted IPs. The best VPNs for streaming like ExpressVPN have servers that constantly update their IPs, meaning there’s less chance they get detected and blocked by streaming platforms.
- 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.
- Private Internet Access (PIA). Private Internet Access is one of the best premium VPNs on the market. It’s very affordable (prices start at just $2.11 / month), fast, secure, and easy-to-use, allowing you to access your BBC iPlayer account from abroad within seconds. In addition, it offers unlimited data and smart DNS. Read the full Private Internet Access review here.
- Surfshark. Surfshark has great security features as well as good speeds, and it allows unlimited connections too. It doesn’t have a free plan, but it is one of the most affordable VPNs on the market starting at $2.30 / month. Read the full Surfshark review here.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut
- Hotspot Shield. Hotspot Shield has a free plan with fast speeds and advanced security features. Unfortunately, it only offers 1 free server that is located in the US, making this VPN useless for accessing BBC iPlayer.
- 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 access BBC iPlayer.
- 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 was unable to access 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 access your BBC iPlayer account from outside the UK, you’ll need to use a VPN. You can do this for free using one of the free VPNs mentioned on this list. A VPN changes your IP address with one from the country you’re connected to, so you appear to be in that country. Keep in mind that free VPNs tend to come with annoying limitations such as data caps and small server networks. I recommend checking out ExpressVPN, an affordable premium VPN that comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
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, and you will be assigned a different IP address. Sometimes it also helps to switch to a different UK server location if the VPN offers multiple options.
- Clear your browser history and cookies. This will make sure your device leaves no information about your actual location. Using an incognito window or changing your browser can also help.
- Use the BBC iPlayer site on mobile. The mobile app might use your device’s GPS data to access your location, and most VPNs can’t hide GPS data.
- 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 access BBC iPlayer.
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 access shows on BBC iPlayer.
However, if you have a UK TV license and travel abroad, you will need to use a VPN to access your BBC iPlayer account. BBC iPlayer will only allow subscribers to watch content if they are located in the UK. Thankfully, a reliable VPN (like ExpressVPN or CyberGhost VPN), lets you connect to a UK server and make it appear as if you’re actually in the UK.
How can I watch BBC iPlayer in Spain or France?
You can use a VPN that works with BBC iPlayer. A VPN with reliable UK servers will give you access to your BBC iPlayer account from anywhere, including in neighboring Spain and France. VPNs can replace your IP address with one from the country that you decide to connect to. When you connect to a VPN server in the UK, websites like BBC iPlayer will read your traffic as if you are in the UK and allow you to stream their content.
All of the VPNs I’ve listed managed to access BBC iPlayer consistently. However, I recommend ExpressVPN, which works 100% of the time with BBC iPlayer, provides superfast speeds, offers multiple UK servers, and includes unlimited data.