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vpnMentor was established in 2014 to review VPN services and cover privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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vpnMentor was established in 2014 to review VPN services and cover privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.

3 Best Free VPNs for BBC iPlayer (2024): Tested & Working

Keira Waddell Updated on 21st June 2024 Fact-checked by Christine Johansen Senior Writer

Most free VPNs aren’t equipped to access BBC iPlayer from anywhere. Even those that do tend to have data and bandwidth limits that make reliable streaming unfeasible. Even worse, some free VPNs are known to sell user data and target you with annoying ads.

Although all free VPNs have their limitations, my team and I found a few VPNs that work reliably with BBC iPlayer and are safe to use. To determine the best ones, I considered features like the size of the VPN’s UK server network, speeds, data limit, and device compatibility. I also checked into the fine print to ensure your data is kept safe.

My #1 pick for iPlayer is ExpressVPN. While it’s not 100% free, you can try it without risk since it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Unlike the completely free options, it offers the fastest speeds I’ve seen to support HD streaming. Plus, it has 5 reliable UK locations that can access BBC iPlayer from any location. Editors' Note: Transparency is one of our core values at vpnMentor, so you should know we are in the same ownership group as ExpressVPN. However, this does not affect our review process.

Try ExpressVPN Risk-Free >>

Short on Time? Here Are the Best Free VPNs for BBC iPlayer

  • Editor's Choice
    ExpressVPN
    ExpressVPN
    Plenty of fast UK servers to stream on BBC iPlayer from anywhere in UHD. Try it risk-free.
    70% of our readers choose ExpressVPN
  • Hotspot Shield
    Hotspot Shield
    Fast, free VPN for BBC iPlayer, but it doesn’t work with other platforms, like Netflix.
  • TunnelBear VPN
    TunnelBear
    100% free VPN that works reliably with BBC iPlayer, but there’s a 2GB monthly data cap.
Editor’s note: The VPN services recommended below adhere to strict no-logging policies that prevent them from keeping track of (or even seeing) what you do online. This means you’re responsible for how you choose to use a VPN, so please ensure to follow all applicable laws and regulations. My colleagues and I do not condone copyright infringement.

3 Best Free VPNs for BBC iPlayer — Full Analysis (Updated 2024)

1. ExpressVPN — Multiple UK Servers That Can Reliably Access BBC iPlayer From Anywhere

Best Feature Multiple UK servers that work with BBC iPlayer
Server Network 3,000 servers in 105 countries, including 5 UK locations, which can all securely access BBC iPlayer from anywhere
Works With BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, Channel 4, ITVX, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and more
Free Trial 7-day free mobile trial, 30-day money-back guarantee
Editors' Note: Transparency is one of our core values at vpnMentor, so you should know we are in the same ownership group as ExpressVPN. However, this does not affect our review process.

With multiple servers across 5 UK locations, ExpressVPN is the most reliable VPN I’ve tested for streaming BBC iPlayer. From central Scotland, I didn’t face error messages or slow speeds with any of its UK servers. If a server does stop working for some reason, there are plenty of backups. I also found it helpful that you can save your favorite locations for quick access. I saved the East London one since it gave me the fastest speeds.

Screenshot of ExpressVPN's East London server working with BBC iPlayerI never faced issues streaming BBC iPlayer with any of ExpressVPN's UK server locations

It’s consistently the fastest VPN, too, so you can watch BBC iPlayer with no lagging or buffering. When I tested its UK servers, I recorded an average speed of 239.86 Mbps, only a 2% drop from my base speed. This makes it possible to stream in high quality (for as long as you want), no matter where you are.

MediaStreamer lets you watch iPlayer on devices that don't usually work with VPNs, like game consoles and smart TVs. After a short tutorial, I set up ExpressVPN on my PS4 in about 5 minutes — it was great to safely stream iPlayer directly on my big screen. I was happy to have this capability since you can't do this with any free VPN I've tested.

The biggest drawback is that it's not 100% free. However, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. You get unlimited data and speeds, and you can try ExpressVPN with BBC iPlayer risk-free. I tested its policy by simply requesting my refund via its live chat and explaining briefly why I wanted to cancel, and the money was back in my account in 2 days.

Useful Features

  • App shortcuts. You can add shortcuts to your favorite streaming apps or websites to the app's home screen. I set up an iPlayer shortcut that connects to the closest UK server to my location in the UK and launches BBC iPlayer with just 2 clicks.
  • Easy to use. ExpressVPN’s user-friendly app makes it easy for beginner VPN users to watch BBC iPlayer securely from anywhere. Its simple and intuitive interface allows you to quickly navigate and select server locations.
  • Split tunneling. This feature lets you choose which websites and apps use the VPN connection and which use your local network. Since not all of your traffic will be encrypted, selecting only your streaming platform to use the VPN can give you better streaming speeds.
ExpressVPN Offer July 2024: For a limited time only, you can get an ExpressVPN subscription for up to 49% off! Don't miss out!

2. Hotspot Shield — Free VPN With Good Speeds for Lag-Free BBC iPlayer Streaming

Best Feature Hydra protocol is speed-optimized to stream BBC iPlayer lag-free from anywhere
Server Network 5 free server locations, including 1 in the UK that reliably works with BBC iPlayer
Works With BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, and more
Free Trial Forever-free plan, 7-day free trial of premium plan

Hotspot Shield’s proprietary Hydra protocol is fast, so you can stream BBC iPlayer from any location in HD. While it’s not as fast as ExpressVPN, I recorded an average speed drop of 25% on the nearest UK server to my location in the country. This may seem like a big drop, but it’s impressive for a free VPN. Many free VPNs limit your speeds significantly, causing tons of buffering during streams.

Screenshot of Hotspot Shield's free UK server working to stream MasterChef on BBC iPlayerI streamed hours of MasterChef with Hotspot Shield with no interruptions

It’s one of the few free VPNs that offers unlimited data, too. You’ll often only be able to stream a couple of episodes of a series with a free VPN. From the UK, I streamed with Hotspot Shield with no issues and could binge-watch MasterChef on BBC iPlayer for 4 hours with no interruptions.

Unfortunately, Hotspot Shield’s free plan isn’t the most reliable for other platforms. Its website actually states that the free plan doesn’t support streaming at all, but I never had issues watching BBC iPlayer from the UK with its free UK server. However, I faced a pop-up asking me to upgrade when I tried to stream my local Netflix library, Sky Go, and Disney+.

Useful Features

  • Automatic WiFi protection. Hotspot Shield’s Auto-protect feature instantly secures your connection with the VPN when you use public WiFi networks, which are common targets for hackers.
  • Leak protection. Its IP leak protection prevents your real location and data from being exposed to the sites you visit.
  • No email required for signup. I appreciate that you can start streaming BBC iPlayer or browse safely without the need to create an account with Hotspot Shield.

3. TunnelBear — Obfuscated Servers To Stream BBC iPlayer on Any Network

Best Feature GhostBear obfuscates your data to stream iPlayer on restricted networks like public WiFi
Server Network Servers in 47 countries, including 1 UK location that works with BBC iPlayer
Works With BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, and more
Free Trial Forever-free plan

TunnelBear’s free plan offers a premium privacy feature called GhostBear. This security feature can help you overcome VPN and media blocks on public WiFi hotspots, such as libraries and airports. You might not need it elsewhere, though. During testing, I was able to watch iPlayer on my home WiFi in the UK as well as in my local cafe, which normally blocks streaming.

Screenshot of TunnelBear's free UK server working to stream Race Across the World on BBC iPlayerThere was only a 3-second load time when I was watching Race Across the World with TunnelBear's free UK server

Its user-friendly app makes it quick and easy to watch BBC iPlayer securely from anywhere. The quirky and fun animated world map allows you to navigate locations with ease. It couldn’t have been simpler to get connected and start streaming with TunnelBear. While testing it from the UK, I clicked the "tunnel" icon in the UK, and a bear dug its way through the tunnel on the map as it connected. Alternatively, there’s a dropdown menu with the full server list.

TunnelBear’s biggest drawback is that its free plan has a data limit of 2GB/month. This was only enough to let me stream for just under 3 hours on SD quality. However, it’s a reliable option for light streaming.

Useful Features

  • Decent speeds. I averaged 135 Mbps with TunnelBear’s free UK server — a 44% loss from my base speed. This was still fast enough to let me stream in Ultra HD, but you may have a more noticeable slowdown if you have a slower base speed.
  • SplitBear. Even though TunnelBear has a data limit of 2GB/month, its SplitBear feature (split tunneling) is a good way to preserve your data. You can select certain apps and websites to not connect to TunnelBear and keep your data for streaming BBC iPlayer with minimal interruptions.

Editors' Note: Transparency is one of our core values at vpnMentor, so you should know we are in the same ownership group as ExpressVPN. However, this does not affect our review process.

Quick Comparison Table: Free BBC iPlayer VPN Features

The following table compares the features of the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer. It looks at the number of UK servers, data limits, whether signup is required, the average speed loss when connected to a nearby UK server, and whether it offers smart DNS or router compatibility to let you stream on devices like smart TVs and game consoles.

Free plan or money-back guarantee? Server locations in the UK Data Cap Signup Required? Average Speed Loss (Local UK Server) Smart DNS or Router Compatible?
🥇ExpressVPN 30-day money-back guarantee 5 Unlimited Yes 2% Yes, both
🥈Hotspot Shield Free forever plan 1 Unlimited No 25% No
🥉TunnelBear Free forever plan 1 2GB/month Yes 44% No

Tips on Choosing the Best Free VPN for BBC iPlayer

I've scrutinized all the VPNs on my list according to these key characteristics. Below is a summary of what to look for, which will help you make an educated decision when choosing the perfect free VPN for BBC iPlayer:

  • Works with BBC iPlayer. Many VPNs, free or paid, simply don’t work with BBC iPlayer. A large selection of UK servers is what allows a VPN to access BBC iPlayer from anywhere. It will also ensure that there are plenty of additional servers to ensure you can stream in HD without lag or overcrowding.
  • Really free. I ensured that the VPNs on my list are 100% free or come with a reliable money-back guarantee. There wasn't any misleading information involving payment or hidden fees.
  • Fast speeds. The faster the speeds, the faster the content will load and playback. For HD streaming on BBC iPlayer, 5 Mbps is required. I used a free online tool to test each VPN in this list to make sure it meets this requirement.
  • Generous or unlimited data limit. Make sure your VPN offers a generous or unlimited data limit. Having a higher data cap or no data restrictions will allow you to enjoy hours of streaming on BBC iPlayer without worrying about reaching your limit.
  • Easy to set up and use. All of the VPNs on this list are compatible with the most popular devices, including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and more. I also made sure the apps were easy to use for watching BBC iPlayer.
  • Strong security and privacy features. Some free VPNs don't use strong encryption and leak your personal IP. If your IP is leaking, then it’s easier for your connection to be intercepted by prying eyes or cybercriminals. I only selected free VPNs that have military-grade encryption and leak protection (and all of them passed my leak tests).
  • Reliable customer support. I checked that the VPNs in this list offer dependable customer support, whether that's by email, contact form, or a 24/7 live chat. This will help you deal with any issues that may arise in a timely manner.

Expert Tip: Most Free VPNs for BBC iPlayer Aren’t Safe

Finding a free VPN capable of protecting your privacy without compromising your streaming quality is a daunting task, and many of these VPNs pose real security threats. The most secure method to watch BBC iPlayer is by using a top-tier VPN that offers a money-back guarantee. It's advisable to rely on the VPNs mentioned in this list, as their safety has been verified. Here are some dangers linked to free VPNs:

  • Some free VPNs collect and sell your data. The data collected is often shared with various third parties, which may put your safety at risk. Before downloading a free VPN for BBC iPlayer, make sure you carefully read its privacy policy. There have been many cases when a free VPN sold its user data for profit.
  • Free VPNs often have poor security features. Usually, these free services are offered at the expense of your online safety. Meaning they don't provide critical security features such as leak protection and a kill switch to ensure you can watch BBC iPlayer safely from anywhere.
  • Some free services come with viruses and malware. Even if not, most free VPNs are ad-supported, so they won’t block ads or pop-ups from bombarding you when you watch BBC iPlayer. Pop-ups are not only annoying but can also contain malware.

Quick Guide: How to Watch BBC iPlayer With a VPN in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Download a VPN. I recommend ExpressVPN because it can access BBC iPlayer in HD from anywhere. Plus, it provides consistently fast speeds and unlimited data. You can try it risk-free for 30 days since it’s backed by a money-back guarantee.
  2. Connect to a server. VPNs offering reliable UK servers make it possible to watch BBC iPlayer abroad. The closer the server, the better the speeds.
  3. Start streaming. Catch up with your favorite shows on BBC iPlayer.

Editors' Note: Transparency is one of our core values at vpnMentor, so you should know we are in the same ownership group as ExpressVPN. However, this does not affect our review process.

FAQs on Free VPNs for BBC iPlayer

Can I watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK?

BBC iPlayer is exclusively available to UK residents with a TV license. That said, a VPN makes it possible to get a UK IP address and watch BBC iPlayer securely from anywhere. VPNs also keep your online data secure while streaming and help avoid ISP throttling, which slows down your streaming speeds.

What if BBC iPlayer is not working with my VPN?

BBC iPlayer uses VPN detection to identify and block IP addresses that it suspects are from VPNs to stop people outside of the UK from accessing its services. This can even happen when you’re using a VPN to secure your traffic while streaming from within the UK. If this happens, you’ll see the following error message when you try to stream a show:

“BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues. In the UK? Here's some advice.”

That said, it’s worth checking that the VPN has been proven to work reliably for watching BBC iPlayer from anywhere. If it is, in fact, a reputable BBC iPlayer VPN, there are a few other tips that may improve the streaming connection.

  1. Disconnect, then reconnect your VPN. This is a simple trick that may help you get a more reliable connection for BBC iPlayer.
  2. Change your browser. You could also try using the iPlayer app instead of the website or vice versa. I recommend clearing your cache and history to remove unnecessary and conflicting data. Using a private or incognito window may also help.
  3. Make sure your device’s clock is set to UK time. Also, ensure that your language is set to UK English and the device’s location is set to the UK.
  4. Switch to a different VPN server. BBC iPlayer may have flagged and blocked the IP address if it detected it was linked to a VPN, so trying another server might solve the issue. Therefore, using a VPN with multiple UK locations is a significant advantage.
  5. Use a VPN with robust security features like military-grade encryption and DNS/IP leak protection. A kill switch is also a bonus.
  6. Contact live chat. There are various reasons why a VPN may not work with iPlayer. The VPN’s support team may be able to provide additional troubleshooting tips.

Can I watch BBC iPlayer without a TV license?

No, you cannot legally watch BBC iPlayer without a TV license if you are in the UK. According to UK law, you must have a TV license to stream live or on-demand content on BBC iPlayer. I’m based in the UK, so I have a TV license and use a reliable VPN for BBC iPlayer to secure my connection, which lets me stream BBC iPlayer in Ultra HD.

Watching BBC iPlayer without a TV license risks a pretty hefty fine plus any legal costs. The BBC and TV Licensing authorities actively enforce these rules, but the detection methods are not publicly detailed.

The TV license requirement does not apply to those outside the UK. However, accessing BBC iPlayer from abroad involves using a VPN that can bypass geographic restrictions. When prompted, confirmation for a TV license is still needed, but there are no mechanisms in place to verify this for international users. It’s important to be aware that, despite the technical workaround, this may violate BBC iPlayer’s terms of service and copyright law, which we don’t condone.

Can I watch BBC iPlayer for free?

Yes, you can watch BBC iPlayer for free, but it requires a UK TV license, which you have to pay for. BBC iPlayer itself is free to access and offers a wide range of live and on-demand content. To use the service, you need to create an account on the BBC iPlayer website, which involves providing details like your email address and a UK postcode.

However, in the UK, watching BBC iPlayer without a TV license is illegal and can result in a fine. This requirement applies to any device used to stream the content, including computers, tablets, and smartphones.

Is using a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer illegal?

No, using a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer is not illegal, but there are some caveats. In most countries around the world, it’s perfectly legal to secure your streaming connection with a VPN. However, in the UK, the legal requirement revolves around having a valid TV license to access live television and BBC iPlayer content. Using a VPN to access BBC iPlayer without a TV license is a violation of licensing requirements and could lead to a fine.

Also, keep in mind that using a VPN to bypass geo-restrictions imposed by streaming services often violates the platform’s terms of service. This means the BBC could potentially block access if it detects VPN usage. Despite these restrictions, some VPNs are secure enough to bypass these restrictions and access BBC iPlayer undetected.

In countries where VPN usage is regulated or banned, like China or Russia, you must understand local laws and implications before using a VPN. The team at vpnMentor and I don’t condone using a VPN to breach any laws or regulations.

Get the Best FREE VPN for BBC iPlayer

Many free VPNs don't have locations in the UK, which are needed for streaming BBC iPlayer from any location. On top of this, there are several risks associated with free VPNs. They can sell data to third parties, target you with ads, and expose your device to malware. Luckily, my team and I found a few free VPNs that work consistently with iPlayer.

My top recommendation is ExpressVPN. It has consistently fast speeds and many UK servers, so you'll always have a reliable connection for streaming your favorite BBC content in HD. While it's not 100% free, it does offer a trustworthy 30-day money-back guarantee. This way, you can test ExpressVPN with BBC iPlayer risk-free. If you're not 100% happy with it, it's easy to claim a refund.

Can’t find a suitable free VPN? Here are the best premium alternatives…

Rank
Provider
Our Score
Discount
Visit Website
1
medal
9.9 /10
9.9 Our Score
Save 49%!
2
9.7 /10
9.7 Our Score
Save 84%!
3
9.5 /10
9.5 Our Score
Save 83%!
4
9.4 /10
9.4 Our Score
Save 72%!
5
9.3 /10
9.3 Our Score
Save 86%!
Privacy Alert!

Your data is exposed to the websites you visit!

Your IP Address:

Your Location:

Your Internet Provider:

The information above can be used to track you, target you for ads, and monitor what you do online.

VPNs can help you hide this information from websites so that you are protected at all times. We recommend ExpressVPN — the #1 VPN out of over 350 providers we've tested. It has military-grade encryption and privacy features that will ensure your digital security, plus — it's currently offering 49% off.

Visit ExpressVPN

We review vendors based on rigorous testing and research but also take into account your feedback and our affiliate commission with providers. Some providers are owned by our parent company.
Learn more
vpnMentor was established in 2014 to review VPN services and cover privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.

About the Author

Keira is an experienced cybersecurity and tech writer dedicated to providing comprehensive insights on VPNs, online privacy, and internet censorship.

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