From soap operas and documentaries to sporting events and comedies, there is no denying that the BBC iPlayer offers a ton of quality programming.
Unfortunately, you have to be in the UK to watch it – even if you live in Britain, pay the annual TV license, and are only away on a short vacation to the Canary Islands.
There is good news, however. Accessing the iPlayer from another country is possible. And it’s not as tricky as it sounds either.
Read on as I explain how to watch BBC iPlayer in Spain the easiest way there is.
Can You Use BBC iPlayer from Spain?
When in Spain, you can’t just open the BBC iPlayer app and expect it to work – we already know that. If you try it, this is what you’ll see:
The BBC geoblocks content so that it’s accessible only in the UK. There are two reasons for this.
First, the BBC has to follow copyright procedures. They own the rights to all the content they show on their streaming service, but potentially only in the United Kingdom.
Legally, to let people stream their programming from elsewhere, the BBC has to own the rights in these specific countries as well. Understandably, they are not interested in doing that because only the British market is their concern.
There are also shows on the iPlayer that don’t even offer licensing options for other countries and cannot be shown legally to viewers outside of Britain.
So, to follow copyright, the BBC restricts its content to the United Kingdom.
Second, if you live in the UK, you should have a TV license to access channels such as ITV or BBC – the license is one of the requirements for watching iPlayer, too.
Spanish residents won’t typically have a British TV license – and it’s impossible to get it living outside the UK. And because the iPlayer’s “Got a TV License?” prompt works purely on the honor system, it’s safest for the BBC to limit viewing to only those in the country.
How to Stream BBC iPlayer in Spain
As I’ve said, however, accessing iPlayer in Spain is possible. The key is in tricking the service into thinking you’re in the UK (even if you’re actually nowhere near). The easiest and most reliable way to do that: use a virtual private network (VPN).
But before going into the nitty-gritty of why that method works, let’s first cut straight to the chase.
Here’s a quick step-by-step on how to unblock BBC iPlayer using a VPN:
- Choose and sign up for a VPN service that works with the iPlayer (not all do) – I use NordVPN, but there’s also a list of other choices further below
- Download the VPN app to your laptop, tablet, or phone and sign in.
- In the VPN app, select a UK server and connect to it.
- Open BBC iPlayer, and sign in to your BBC account.
- Pick a show and enjoy it!
Creating a BBC iPlayer Account
As you may have noticed above, other than a VPN, you also need a BBC account to watch iPlayer in Spain. Creating an account is easy.
Again, you should technically have a television license to do it. But, because the BBC is not in the habit of asking invasive questions to figure out who has it and who doesn’t, all you need to sign up is a UK postal code (EC1A 4ER, for example).
At one point, a screen may pop up asking if you’ve got a license, but it’s 100% upheld by the honor system – you won’t have to prove anything.
So simply follow the prompts, and you’ll have a BBC account in minutes. That all said, it’s best if you create it while already connected to a UK VPN server.
How Does a VPN Unblock iPlayer
Let’s now get into the nitty-gritty I promised earlier and explain how all this VPN magic works.
When you normally use the internet, you do so through an internet service provider (ISP). The ISP assigns your device an IP address, which you can think of as a digital version of your home address.
The IP tells websites and online services where to send data when you ask for it. It also reveals your physical location – usually to within a few miles. That’s how the BBC can figure out if you’re in the United Kingdom or not.
A VPN is a private network through which your device can access the internet and sits on top of your regular ISP connection. It does many useful things, like encrypt and protect your data, and hide your identity and make you anonymous online.
But it also does something else.
To use a VPN, you have to connect to one of its servers. The better providers will have thousands of servers in dozens of countries, and you can pick any of them. For instance, a server based in the UK.
After you connect – and this is the key – your device’s ISP-assigned IP address is replaced by that of the VPN server. And because the server is in a different country, so is its IP.
All that to say: pick a UK server, and the BBC iPlayer is fooled. It will no longer see your device as located in Spain but will instead believe you’re on British soil. And, just like that, no more geo restrictions.
Is it Legal to Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad?
Using VPNs in Spain is legal, so there are no issues there. And while accessing the content on BBC iPlayer in Spain is also technically legal, it’s a bit of a moral grey area.
The BBC could get in trouble for streaming shows in a country where it doesn’t have the rights. So far, though, that has never happened.
It’s also highly, highly unlikely you would ever run into any issues – again, so far, that has not happened to anyone (and millions of us use the iPlayer from abroad).
That said, if you’re living in the UK, lying about having a UK television license is against the law. But as these laws don’t apply in other countries, you’re safe on Spanish soil.
What to Look for in a BBC iPlayer VPN
Not all VPNs are created equal. When choosing a provider with the goal of streaming iPlayer programmes, there are several things you should pay attention to.
VPN Servers in the United Kingdom
A VPN with servers in the UK is an absolute must for watching BBC iPlayer – there’s no way around it. If you want to fool the BBC into thinking you’re in the country, you need servers there.
The number of UK servers a VPN has is also important – the more, the better. It helps with user load balancing, which leads to better performance (and fewer delays and annoying buffering spiny things).
Over time, the BBC may also block some VPN servers IPs from accessing their content – if they can, why wouldn’t they? While the top-rated VPNs will fix that quickly, it’s good to have alternatives when a few servers go down.
The VPN Unblocks BBC iPlayer
Even among premium providers, the majority of VPNs won’t work with the BBC – and there isn’t a workaround on our end that will ever fix that.
Websites with geoblocked content, like the iPlayer, are well aware of the power of VPNs and try to lock them out.
The sign of a good iPlayer VPN is their ability to get past the broadcaster’s restrictions and if one of their servers is ever blocked, to get it going again quickly. These are the providers we want.
Fast Connection Speeds
There is no greater enemy of streaming video than a slow internet connection. Pixelation, buffering – that’s no way to watch.
Any VPN worth considering for the BBC iPlayer needs to be fast. Period.
As with all technology, something may go wrong with your VPN eventually. That’s when good customer support is worth its weight in gold.
Ideally, look for a provider with 24/7 chat support as ticketing system are too slow. After all, the newest Peaky Blinder episodes wait for no one [simon].
It’s also not a bad idea to get in touch before you subscribe to see how responsive and knowledgeable support is. Just because someone is there all day every day doesn’t necessarily mean they’re helpful.
Best VPNs to Watch BBC iPlayer in Spain
Let’s refresh. For the best experience streaming the BBC from Spain, we need a fast VPN, has many UK servers, can unblock the iPlayer, and comes with helpful support. Oh, it also probably wouldn’t hurt if it didn’t break the bank.
It’s a long list. Luckily, though, a handful of excellent VPN providers check all those boxes.
Arguably the most popular VPN for watching BBC iPlayer in Spain (or from any other country) is NordVPN. It is also who I use.
The 444 UK servers NordVPN runs do an excellent job of unblocking the iPlayer. Speeds are among the best out there and guarantee smooth and problem-free British TV binging.
The provider also does a commendable job of unblocking other streaming services. And because their server list includes 59 countries, you can access content from just about anywhere (including most Netflix libraries).
Finally, NordVPN’s 24/7 customer support has an excellent reputation for being helpful and attentive. The service even comes with a 30-day no questions asked refund policy, giving you plenty of time to try them out risk-free.
There’s not much more you could ask for.
- Excellent download and upload speeds
- Large ever-expanding server network
- Great privacy with independently verified no logging policy
- Specialty servers (including double VPN, obfuscated, and Tor over VPN)
- Clean, easy to use client
- Works with Netflix and other streaming services
- Allows torrenting and P2P
- Offers dedicated IP addresses
- No split tunneling feature
- A bit pricey on shorter-term plans
Surfshark is another provider that does a great job of giving us access to the iPlayer and takes the BBC’s VPN blocking attempts in stride.
Their UK servers offer excellent speeds – expect zero buffering and image pixelation, even at the highest video quality settings. And if you ever want to venture beyond the United Kingdom, Surfshark’s network includes an impressive 65 countries.
Surfshark is the only provider that lets you connect an unlimited number of devices at the same time. That means no matter how big your family, everyone can be watching their own show.
And then there is Surfshark’s price. They are hands down the least expensive premium VPN in the market. Streaming the BBC from a Spanish resort does not get any cheaper.
- Excellent privacy and security with no logging
- Great server performance
- Unblocks Netflix, BBC, and many others
- Easy to use client
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Torrenting support network-wide
- Very inexpensive
- Inconsistent speeds at a few locations
- Fairly slow customer support
PureVPN likes to position themselves as a VPN for streamers and, indeed, they do deliver.
4 servers located in the UK give us plenty of connection options. Since PureVPN focuses so much on online streaming, they also provide servers optimized specifically for dozens of the world’s most popular video-on-demand services.
The BBC iPlayer, of course, makes that list, but PureVPN works well with other UK channels like ITV or Channel 5, too.
With very affordable plans and a risk-free 31-days money-back guarantee, it’s hard to go wrong with PureVPN to access the BBC.
- Huge server network (129 countries)
- Fast speeds
- Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer, and over 70 other streaming services
- Compatible with over 50 devices and platforms
- Independently verified zero log VPN provider
- Dedicated IP option
- Great value
- Apps could use a bit more polish
- Some intermittent connection problems
Much like PureVPN, CyberGhost also lists access to geo-blocked video as one of their major selling points. And they too do a great job of it.
Out of over 6900 CyberGhost servers, a considerable percentage calls the UK home – 988 at last count. And because the VPN targets streamers, they too include plenty of servers optimized specifically for that purpose.
As can be expected, speeds are consistently fast, no matter how many of the seven simultaneous device connections allowed you use.
CyberGhost customer support is helpful and the service comes with a very generous 45-day money-back guarantee. That’s the longest in the industry (for anyone keeping count), giving you plenty of time to try things out for yourself.
- Zero logging for maximum privacy
- Excellent server distribution with over 6900 servers in 89 countries
- Very fast connection speeds
- Works with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- Allows P2P torrenting
- Long 45-day money-back guarantee
- Parent company with a questionable reputation
- Convoluted manual OpenVPN setup
- Doesn't work from China
ExpressVPN does a lot of things well and unblocking iPlayer from abroad is one of them.
On the off chance you run into a problem, ExpressVPN’s support is widely regarded as the best in the industry. I doubt you would ever need to make use of it, but the service also comes with a no questions asked 30-day money-back guarantee.
ExpressVPN is a little pricey, so be on the lookout for any coupons or sales. That said, even at full price, this VPN is worth every penny.
- A feature-rich and intuitive client
- Strong back-end technology
- Plenty of servers and server locations
- Fast and consistent connection speeds
- Works with US Netflix
- Top-notch customer support
- Some aggregated logging
- Not the cheapest
Can Free VPNs Unblock iPlayer
In your search for a VPN to stream the BBC from Spain, you’ll likely come across services that say they offer everything I mention above do, but for free!
That may sound a little too good to be true, and it is.
What free VPNs don’t cost in dollars, euros, or pounds, they cost in your privacy. Fully expect that any data you give them, along with your browsing habits, will be sold to third parties.
It’s the exact opposite of what a VPN should do.
You’ll also see ads (lots of them). A free VPN has no subscription fees to rely on, and they have to bring in money somehow – after all, running a private network is not cheap.
Most importantly, for accessing geoblocked streaming services like the BBC iPlayer, free VPNs are utterly useless. Even if you find a server that works, it won’t work for long, and the sub-par performance and bandwidth restrictions will have you pulling your hair out.
While it may not seem like it at first, watching BBC iPlayer in Spain is possible. You just need the right VPN to get around their geographical restrictions and give you that fast and reliable access.
Of the providers that work well, NordVPN is currently my go-to. Between a ton of UK servers, quick connection speeds, helpful customer support, and a low price tag, it checks all the boxes. Few other VPNs do as good of a job unblocking iPlayer from the Spanish countryside (or anywhere else your travels may take you).