Whether you’re jetting off on holiday or you live abroad and want to watch UK TV, it's possible to see your favourite shows with a little work. The best method to use will depend upon what you want to watch and how long you’re overseas, but we’ll explain everything right here.

Can I watch live UK TV abroad?

Technically no, but in practice, yes. The fact is, almost none of the UK TV providers allow you to access their services if you’re not in the UK (you’re ok if you’re in the Channel Islands, though).

The same goes for services such as TVCatchup and TVPlayer.com.

Try and watch a live channel on your phone via an app or website and you’ll get a message telling you the service is only for those in the UK and that it’s against terms of use to use them anywhere else.

The only way around this is to run a VPN app and select a server in the UK so that the TV app or website thinks you’re in the UK and will allow you to watch. Don't forget you'll need a TV license 

You can read our roundups of the best VPN services for Android and iOS, but if you want a quick recommendation, then try NordVPN, ExpressVPN or PureVPN which all have apps for both types of phone.

If you’d prefer not to install an app at all and just use your Android or iPhone’s built-in VPN support, then try out Hidden24 which has a handy UK server.

There is one exception to this: Sky currently allows you to stream TV in the EU on a compatible mobile device. You must be a Sky subscriber, of course and we're focusing on free UK TV in this article.

Beware that streaming video over your phone’s 3G or 4G data connection will burn through your monthly allowance fast, so it’s best to use your hotel’s Wi-Fi if it’s fast enough. Although roaming within the EU is currently free if you have a UK SIM, that may well change  after the UK leaves the EU in March.

Download shows

A simpler approach, which works if you’re going on holiday and have some time before you leave, is to download the shows to your devices in the UK. You can then watch them whenever and wherever you like without needing an internet connection.

How to watch free UK TV abroad on your phone

Just watch out for any time limits – you don’t want downloads expiring before you watch them. But you typically get 30 days to start watching, then 48 hours to complete the episode or film. It’s similar with Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Note that you cannot download anything from the Demand 5 app – it’s streaming only – and you can only download shows from Sky and ITV if you pay for Sky Go Extra and ITV Hub+ respectively.

With BBC and All 4 you can download without paying more, but as with all broadcasters, not every show or film you can stream is downloadable. Most are, though.

Downloading doesn’t help you if the programme hasn't been broadcast before you leave the UK, so if you wanted to download outside the UK you’d need to use the VPN workaround just as if you were watching live TV.

Here are more specific details on each TV provider:

How to watch BBC iPlayer abroad

How to watch ITV Hub abroad

How to watch All 4 abroad

How to watch Now TV abroad