If you’re on holiday, working abroad, or living as an expat, you needn’t go cold turkey from BBC Sounds (née BBC iPlayer Radio). Here we show you how to listen to BBC Radio abroad.
How to listen to BBC Radio abroad: Quick guide
- Sign up to ExpressVPN (£5.13/month)
- Download and install app on your device
- Connect to a server in the UK (select BBC sever from “Streaming” tab on Ivacy)
- Clear your browser’s cookie and cache (optional)
- Open BBC Sounds or TuneIn radio app
- Listen to BBC Radio from anywhere in the world!
How to listen to BBC Radio abroad: The history
Largely, the BBC is pretty good at making its radio available to the world. This dates back to a time when the BBC was committed to using radio as a tool to share British culture, and its views, with the world.
The result of this commitment means UK travellers only need an internet connection and a smartphone/tablet/computer to listen to BBC Radio. Then they just need to download the BBC iPlayer Radio App or login to http://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds. However, that’s not the whole story.
If you’re listening to a program, such as sport, that’s restricted for “licensing reasons” you won’t be able to listen from outside the UK.
How to listen to BBC iPlayer Radio abroad?
Providing you have a decent internet connection, or roaming data on your phone, listening to BBC Radio while you’re abroad is pretty simple. All you need is a VPN… and these can cost as little as a few pounds a month.
The best way to listen to BBC iPlayer Radio when you’re abroad is to buy a VPN. A Virtual Private Server (VPN) will spoof your IP location (internet connection) using encrypted data and a network of servers all over the world. This means you can trick BBC iPlayer into thinking you’re connecting to its content from an IP address in the UK. A VPN will work from anywhere in the world, all you need is an active internet connection.
I recommend using either ExpressVPN (£5.13/month) or Ivacy (£1.74/month) as these are the two best VPNs at unblocking BBC iPlayer content. Note that if you choose to use Ivacy, the best way to unblock BBC sounds and BBC iPlayer is by selecting the BBC server which can be found via the app’s Streaming tab. ExpressVPN is a more premium service, meaning any UK server will unblock BBC iPlayer.
BBC iPlayer Radio abroad: “This programme is unavailable”
Some content is subject to licensing. This means the content is restricted to being broadcast in the UK only. More often than not, this is only the case for live sporting events.
When that’s the case, your options are limited. The best way to bypass these geo-restrictions is to install a VPN and select a server in the UK to spoof BBC iPlayer Radio into thinking you’re accessing its content from a UK IP address.
Until late last year, practically any VPN provider was good enough to bypass the BBC’s low-tech geo-restrictions. However, everything as changed now.
Due to wide-spread abuse of VPNs to access iPlayer, the BBC (and all other major broadcasters) has upped its geo-restriction blocks. The BBC now actively block IP addresses it suspects VPN are using.
The way it identifies these VPNs is relatively straightforward. VPN providers share the same few servers with their thousands of customers. Which means the same IP addresses are downloading abnormal amounts of content from BBC iPlayer’s servers.
BBC iPlayer will blacklist any IP with “abnormal behaviour” patterns.
This is the reason not all VPNs work with iPlayer, as some VPNs don’t refresh their IP addresses fast enough to keep up with the BBC’s blacklisting offensive. Which is why we suggest you use Ivacy (£1.74/month) or ExpressVPN (£5.13/month) as they stay one step ahead of the VPN ban.
However any of the VPNs listed below will also work with BBC Sounds from outside the UK.
Best VPNs for BBC Sounds
The BEST VPN of 2020!
Number of servers: 3,000+ | Speed: >80% | Bandwidth: Unlimited | IP locations: 160 in 94 countries | Devices supported: 5 | Live chat: Yes | 30-day money-back guarantee: Yes
ExpressVPN is the best VPN you can buy. If you can afford the extra few pounds/dollars a month, you won’t regret it.
The first thing you need to know about this VPN is that it’s fast. Really fast! It consistently tops our independent VPN speed tests, with blazingly fast download/upload speeds.
And importantly, it ALWAYS has servers that are open with major streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video etc.
ExpressVPN is the best VPN on the market at playing Cat and Mouse with online streaming sites. Meaning, whenever one of its servers is blacklisted it creates a new one – giving its users a constant stream of servers that aren’t blocked. Needless to say, this is a valuable attribute if you’re looking for a VPN to unblock streaming sites.
Its app is easy-to-use and free to download on pretty much any device you can think of. Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, FireStick, Android TV, Roku, PS4, Xbox, Linux, even Apple TV (with a workaround). It’s got it all covered.
The app is another main reason this VPN is so good at unblocking TV streaming sites (that claim they block VPNs) is that its software takes a pragmatic approach to user management. While other VPNs tempt customers by promising them access to hundreds/thousands of servers in multiple countries, ExpressVPN does things differently.
With ExpressVPN you only have a handful of server locations to choose from. Once you select your location the app takes care of the rest. Assigning you to the fastest available server that’s not oversubscribed. This simple technique is so important, as it keeps ExpressVPN’s servers operating at lightning-fast speeds and prevent its IPs from getting blacklisted for “abnormal” usage in the first place.
ExpressVPN is a little more expensive than the other VPNs. But if you want the most reliable VPN on the market, there’s only one choice. ExpressVPN is the best.
The BEST mid-range VPN for streaming!
Number of servers: 3,000+ | Speeds: >75% | Bandwidth: Unlimited | IP locations: 70 in 48 countries | Devices supported: 5 | Live chat: Yes | 30-day money-back guarantee: Yes
Private Internet Access is one of the leading no-log VPN services with over 1 million paying customers.
This VPN is one of the best in the industry at beating streaming sites’ VPN bans. It provides reliable connections with US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+ Amazon Prime Video, etc. It also allows 10 simultaneous devices to be connected to its servers at the same time, so you can share the account with your close friends.
If, for whatever reason, you’re not happy with Private Internet Access, there’s a 24/7 live chat support available to assist you with your problem. PIA also offers the industry-standard 30-days money-back guarantee.
From my tests (from New Zealand) I was able to get download speeds of 70 Mbps while connected to a UK server using the Private Internet Access VPN (my non-VPN speed is 100 Mbps).
The BEST low-cost VPN
Number of servers: 1,000+ | Speed: >65% | Bandwidth: Unlimited | IP locations: 275 in 100 countries | Devices supported: 5 | Live chat: Yes | 30-day money-back guarantee: Yes
If you’re looking for an excellent VPN, with an even better price tag, Ivacy ($1.16/month) is a great option.
This VPN has all the features you need to stream BBC iPlayer, in HD, from any country in the world. I’ve been testing the app recently on Mac, PC, Android, iOS and FireStick and the results have been impressive – unlocking BBC iPlayer, US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, etc. with ease.
The Ivacy app is a little different in regards to its UX (user experience). Instead of just selecting a UK server, you need to select the specific BBC iPlayer server. Don’t worry, this isn’t a bad thing – by connecting to a dedicated BBC iPlayer server, it simply means that you’re connecting to an IP address that Ivacy knows works with BBC iPlayer.
For an extra $1.99/month (£1.74) you can add-on a dedicated IP. This will buy you sole access to an IP address in a country of your choice, meaning you won’t have to share your IP (and speeds) with any other use. I don’t recommend this though, using the regular Ivacy servers is enough 95 per cent of the time.
7-DAY TRIAL – $0.99
(30-day money-back guarantee)
A solid all-round VPN option!
Number of servers: 5,000+ | Speeds: >80% | Bandwidth: Unlimited | IP locations: 62 countries | Devices supported: 6 | Live chat: Yes | 30-day money-back guarantee: Yes
NordVPN is the most widely-used VPN in the world. And its easy to see why. It’s a polished app that delivers fast connections (more on this later) to a massive network of VPN servers.
It’s pretty reliable at unblocking popular streaming services too – US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, etc. – but its record isn’t perfect. NordVPN claims that’s all changed now as a result of hiring full-time technical team (that’s responsible for monitoring its servers connections with popular TV streaming services) and aggressive investment in its network of IP addresses in key locations.
Another interesting thing to note is that NordVPN is an industry leader in its development of Nordlynx technology. Nordlynx is built using the WireGuard, a new VPN tunnelling protocol designed to outperform current standards (OpenVPN and IPSec). The benefits, according to NordVPN, are dramatically faster transfer speeds while connected to a VPN. My tests – New Zealand to London – confirm that Nordlynx is currently the fastest VPN on the market. However, the difference isn’t dramatic, a few Mbps is all.
Number of servers: 6,000+ | Speeds: >65% | Bandwidth: Unlimited | IP locations: 200 in 90 countries | Devices supported: 7 | Live chat: Yes | 30-day money-back guarantee: Yes
CyberGhost is one of the more established VPNs on the market. It has a well-established, and well-tested global network of servers that perform well.
From my tests over the past several months, CyberGhost has no trouble at unblocking major streaming services – US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max etc. This VPN performed well at maintaining download speeds, well above 65 per cent of my regular (non VPN) ISP speed.
That said, there’s nothing really unique about the service. Which forces you to look at its price-point. And there’s nothing special here. Its short-term $12.99/month price tag puts is well above the industry average of $10.10/month. Similarly, its long-term $2.75/month for 3 years deal isn’t much of a “deal” either.
Oddly, CyberGhost’s most unique feature is its a 1-day, no obligations, free trial. This is an appealing offer to customers who are new to VPNs. However, it’s important to remember that most reputable VPNs will offer customers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so try not to be too seduced by the offer.
Read next: How to watch 3pm kick offs in the UK.