Ultimate Watch British TV abroad guide



Chris, a UK-born media connoisseur, is an expert in watching international TV. Known as "The Global Screen Wanderer", he has travelled extensively across the globe with long stints away from home. With over 10 years of experience he has become the go-to guru for streaming content from home and abroad.

Travelling is one of my favourite past times. But one thing I always miss is a bit of good old British TV from back home.

It’s exciting to jet off to another country, be it for that short weekend trip or something longer like an extended trek across a couple of countries or even a continent.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to all corners of the globe. From seeing the sights in Amsterdam to checking out the lakes (for crocs!) in Florida.

I’ve also hung out in the trendy CBD in Sydney and hiked the remote north-eastern regions of Thailand and central Laos… and got the mosquito bite scars to prove it!

No matter where you are in the world though, nothing compares to the TV from your home country and if you’re a Brit abroad then British TV is what you’re looking for.

So if you’re craving for some familiar British TV, let’s get started!

Online streaming services are your friend

One thing you’ll notice quickly in most countries is British TV isn’t available at the click of a remote control button.

Switch on any TV in any country to be bombarded with foreign sounding news, game shows, adverts and more. It’s enough to give you a headache.

What that means is you’re going to need to head online.

As most of us have more laptops, tablets and phones than we can shake a stick at and you’ve likely crammed at least one of them into your bag, then that shouldn’t be an issue.

Thankfully almost all of the UK’s most popular TV channels have online streaming websites and apps. Online streaming is where we’ll be focusing our efforts.

What British TV Channels can I watch abroad

It doesn’t matter if you’re a sports fan or an avid period drama viewer because nearly every UK channel has a website or app and below are some of the most popular:

  • BBC – BBC’s BBC iPlayer is one of the most well-known streaming services in the UK and shows all the latest TV shows. It usually holds content for around 30-days, but you’ll sometimes get lucky and find something with a longer date. There’s also word that they’ll be increasing the retention limit shortly.
  • ITV – ITV or ‘Channel 3’ as your parents might say has the ITV Hub service. It used to be called ITV Player but it’s basically the same thing. It holds a good selection of the latest TV shows and an extensive back catalogue. You can watch live or on catch-up including everything from ITV 1 all the way through to 4, CITV and more.
  • Channel 4 – Channel 4’s All 4 service has been rebranded more times than I can remember. Formally known as 4OD (4 On Demand) it offers one of the most extensive selections of Channel 4 shows and holds them for months so it’s a great place to watch catch-up TV from months ago.
  • Channel 5 – It’s not the UK’s favourite TV channel but their online service My5 keeps a good selection of Channel 5 shows. If only it had a live option!
  • TVPlayerTV Player is an online-only streaming service. The free package doesn’t allow access to catch-up shows, but you can watch nearly every Freeview TV channel live.
  • Sky – The UK’s favourite premium subscription service offers Sky Go. This popular online streaming service allows access to both catch-up and live premium content.
  • VirginVirgin TV Go is a relatively new streaming service, unfortunately though it’s not accessible outside the UK even when using unblocking tools like VPNs.
  • BT Sport – If you’ve got a direct subscription to BT Sport then you can watch all the latest live sport via their website or app.
  • Dave – It’s considered a bit of a cheap TV channel but Dave, this Freeview service lets you watch a selection of their shows online.

How to unblock British TV abroad

Watching British TV abroad isn’t merely a case of switching on the TV.

Nor is it possible to access one of the streaming sites from above (or their app) and watch as if you’re in the UK.

If you’ve already tried, you’ll know all of these services are blocked when you’re outside the UK.

To unblock them you have two options, a VPN app or SmartDNS service.

What’s a VPN

A VPN is an online privacy tool.

It’s great for travelling because if you’re making use of any hotel or public Wi-Fi, it’ll keep your online browsing safe.

More interestingly though a VPN allows you to change your virtual location.

A VPN allows you to pretend you’re anywhere in the world.

All the British TV websites check your location before letting you watch – it’s how they block you while you’re abroad.

By using a VPN, you can make it appear as if you’re in the UK. The result of this is you can watch British TV abroad.

  • Pros: Straightforward to use, keeps you secure.
  • Cons: Can introduce buffering on slow internet connections.

What’s a SmartDNS

SmartDNS is similar to VPN.

It doesn’t offer the privacy protection that a VPN does, but it does unblock streaming services from across the world.

I’m not a massive fan of SmartDNS because they’re more difficult to set-up and if you’re a beginner, there’s a little too much messing about with settings for my liking.

  • Pros: Fast with little buffering.
  • Cons: Difficult and time-consuming to set-up, not ideal for beginners.

What devices can I watch British TV on

Thankfully you’ve got plenty of choices when it comes to watching British TV because there are websites and apps for almost all devices.

If you’re travelling for a short period or you’re backpacking then you’re likely to want to watch on a phone, tablet or laptop.

If you’re an expat or living abroad for more extended periods, you’re more likely to want to watch on a regular TV or desktop computer.

There are solutions for all types of devices so you can watch British TV abroad on any of them.

There are a couple of different methods for watching British TV abroad.

Method 1: Computer / Laptop (Easy)

Congrats! Watching on a computer or laptop is by far the easiest method.

My recommendation is to use a VPN app rather than SmartDNS. It’s not only easier to set up but quicker and unless you have abysmal internet access you won’t even notice any difference (I’ll cover SmartDNS later on in this guide if you do have slow internet).

My go-to VPN service is ExpressVPN, but I’ve also used and like both NordVPN and CyberGhost VPN.

You can choose any of these three; it doesn’t matter which.

For ease, I’m showing you how to do this using ExpressVPN.

Step 1

Sign up to ExpressVPN by clicking here. Then download their app.

You can get this from the ‘Products‘ section of their website.

ExpressVPN products menu

Step 2

Install and open the app and when required login. Then press the ‘Choose Location‘ (1) button and finally ‘United Kingdom‘ (2).

You’ll also need to press ‘Connect‘ if it doesn’t start automatically connecting for you.

ExpressVPN app connecting to the UK.
Unblock UK TV with ExpressVPN.

Step 3

Once you’re connected, you’re pretty much done. All that’s left is for you to visit your favourite streaming website and unblock BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub or any of the ones listed earlier in this guide.

Method 2: Phone / Tablet (Easy-Medium)

Watching British TV on your phone or tablet should also be relatively easy, although it depends where you bought and registered your phone or tablet.

You’ll need a VPN app the same as watching on a computer.

Again, ExpressVPN is my recommended choice, but NordVPN and CyberGhost VPN work equally well too.

Step 1

Sign up for ExpressVPN. Once you’ve signed up visit your regular app store like the Google Play store or Apple app store and search for ‘ExpressVPN’

Click ‘Install’. I’ve already got it installed in the screenshot above.

Step 2

Then open the newly installed app. You’ll need to login the first time you run the app. It’s the same login and password details from when you signed up.

Step 3

Now press the three ‘‘ next to “Selection Location” and tap on ‘United Kingdom‘. The app will automatically make connection for you.

ExpressVPN UK Android app
Connect to the UK using the ExpressVPN app.

Step 4

Once you’re connected, you can now open any of the TV service apps such as BBC iPlayer or Sky Go and watch as if you were in the UK.

If you don’t have them installed and you bought your device outside the UK read below.

How to install the TV apps outside the UK

If you bought your phone or tablet outside the UK then you’ll probably have difficulty installing the TV apps such as BBC iPlayer.

You’ll get stopped with a message saying they’re not available to download in your country. Or when you search for the apps, you won’t be able to find them.

For Android devices, it’s pretty simple. Just head over to the APKPure website. Then use the search box to search for the TV app you want to watch.

APK Pure search box
Search for the app you’re looking for.

Once you’ve found it, you can install it directly to your Android phone or tablet.

For the Apple iPad and iPhone, things get a little more complicated.

You’ll need to follow a dedicated guide such as this one, or watch this video to install apps outside their intended country.

Method 3: Regular TV (Easy)

My favourite method is Method 3 and it might be yours too.

There’s nothing like watching TV on an actual TV and if you’re away from the UK for some time, then it’s the option you’ll be seeking.

After all, watching on a small screen is fine when you’re travelling for a few weeks, but if you’re after home comforts, then a TV is where you’ll want to watch.

For this you’ll need an Amazon Fire TV stick, if you don’t already have one then you can grab one here from Amazon.

I’ve linked the UK Amazon store but it doesn’t matter what region Amazon Fire TV Stick you have – it’ll work with any.

It’ll also work with the regular Fire TV and Fire TV Cube too.

Step 1

The first thing you need is a VPN service. For this, I recommend ExpressVPN, although NordVPN and CyberGhost VPN also work well on the Fire TV Stick.

Once you’ve signed up for one of their services you’ll need to download their app onto your Fire TV Stick. You can do this by using the ‘Search’ feature on the Fire TV Stick itself.

Step 2

When you’ve found it click to Install, Get or Download and then go to the Home screen of your Fire TV Stick and click the new ‘ExpressVPN’ icon. Or the icon of the VPN service you selected.

ExpressVPN Firestick
Open the ExpressVPN app.

Step 3

Then select the ‘United Kingdom‘ and press ‘Connect‘.

You’ll now be able to use any of the UK streaming apps.

A word of warning for BBC iPlayer in particular though. BBC iPlayer doesn’t work directly via their app. For this, you’ll need to run a web-browser such as ‘Internet’ (formally Silk Browser) or ‘FireFox’.

You can then visit the BBC iPlayer website directly and stream all your favourite shows.

Using SmartDNS for British TV

Some devices such as Smart TV’s won’t allow you to use VPN apps, so the only solution is to use SmartDNS.

SmartDNS is also useful if you’ve got any device but your internet connection is unreliable or very slow.

The best service for this is StrongVPN. They come with a VPN app and a free SmartDNS service included.

You’ll need to consult their set-up guides for your device as it’s outside the scope of this article.

Now you’ll be able to watch British TV on any device in any country in the world.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback. If you’ve got comments or suggestions or you get stuck with one of the methods above, feel free to post in the comment section and I’ll do my best to help you out.

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4 Responses

  1. Estelle harkess says:

    What will the initial and monthly cost be to set up British t.v. on my t.v.. I am in western cape

    • Chris says:

      Hi Estelle,

      The easiest method you would need to initially buy an Amazon Fire TV Stick, if you can get someone to buy it for you in the UK they’re around £39 (although sometimes on promotion for £25). Seems like a company called Takealot also sell them in South Africa for R 1,299 – although that’s double the price (https://www.takealot.com/amazon-fire-tv-stick-with-alexa-voice-remote/PLID48922075/)

      You would then need a VPN service which is the monthly cost from ExpressVPN. It’s US$12.95 (~ R 173) if you pay monthly or if you buy a 12-month subscription it works out at just US$6.67 (~ R 89) per month.

      • Estelle Harkess says:

        Dear Chris
        Thanks so much for prompt reply. This is such good news. I currently have a small package from DSTV but it is expensive for me especially as I only watch the couple of BBC and ITV channels we have. This would be great for me but at 70 yrs old this technology would be too complicated. Do you perhaps have a contact here who would be kind enough to set it up for me. The cost of initial outlay and monthly cost would be much less than I am currently paying.
        The reply button would not work for me so have made my reply here.
        Warm regards

        • Chris says:

          Hi Estelle,

          Unfortunately we’re based in the UK so don’t have a South African contact for carrying out such services.

          However, I would hazard a guess that with our guidance you could easily get this set-up – it’s really not as difficult as it may sound. We could certainly walk you through the steps and if you got stuck we would be happy to help.

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