The BBC iPlayer is one of the best streaming services around, but how to you watch it when you leave the UK? Well it is possible to watch iPlayer abroad but it's a little complicated so we're going to take you through the details and you're options for doing it.

The broadcaster is fussy about who can watch its programming mostly because it is not actually free, but paid for through the UK TV Licence - more details below including how iPlayer accounts work. So while you'll be pleased to learn that it is entirely possible to get around its restrictions, it is also against its terms of service.

The Beeb says the correct way to watch iPlayer content abroad is to "download a programme on BBC iPlayer when you're in the UK, you can watch it anywhere in the world."

As always, where there is a will there is a way, and no matter where you are in the world you can stream high-quality TV and radio shows such Doctor Who and His Dark Materials from BBC iPlayer. The process is much the same as if you were to watch American Netflix or Hulu from outside the US.

Below we've outlined exactly how to access the streaming service from outside the UK. It's not important to know the ins and outs of how it all works, only that a VPN (or virtual private network) conceals your true location from a website and makes it appear that you are somewhere else. So if you're in the US a VPN can fool iPlayer into thinking you are actually in the UK. 

Use a VPN to watch iPlayer

The easiest way to watch BBC iPlayer abroad is to use a VPN.

VPNs (virtual private networks) are used for many purposes, as they allow you to surf the internet with anonymously and protect your privacy. They can also be used to virtually relocate your computer or mobile device by offering access to an IP address from the region you require. This is where they can come in handy for watching BBC iPlayer and other UK TV abroad.

Our pick of the best VPN for BBC iPlayer is NordVPN, which also tops our overall best VPN round-up thanks to its ease-of-use, top-notch security and excellent value for money.

You can get NordVPN here, but other recommended alternatives include ExpressVPN and PureVPN. Note that you might be able to install a VPN on your TV.

Once you've got your chosen VPN service up and running, you'll need to set it to connect to a UK server and then go to the BBC iPlayer webpage to start watching.

Here are more recommendations for VPN providers with UK servers.

Change DNS settings to watch on Xbox or PS4

If you want to get UK TV via the browser on your Xbox or PlayStation then you will need to fiddle with some DNS settings. If you head to the network settings of the console/device and manually configure the settings then you can enter a primary and secondary DNS (Domain Name Servers) numbers.

You can search the internet for these (they change fairly regularly) and DroidKid has a good list which you can try. They are free but easily get clogged up and slow, and occasionally send you to someone's own site rather than your desired TV source in an attempt to sell you VPN software or something worse.

If you want to watch iPlayer from abroad via a game console you might be better off simply installing a VPN directly to your router, which will let you connect your console through the VPN without any of the above concerns.

BBC iPlayer accounts and the UK TV Licence

The BBC requires that anyone using iPlayer is a UK TV Licence holder - to find out for sure if that affects you, check our guide to who needs a TV Licence.

You also need a free BBC account, which requires a UK postcode (and you need to be over 13 years old). You'll need an account if you want to watch or listen to iPlayer through the website or mobile apps. You might also need to log in on Smart TV and game consoles.

BBC iPlayer account

You can register for an account for free, but you'll need to give your date of birth, gender, and email address, along with a valid UK postcode, and the BBC says that it will use the information to better understand its audience and improve its recommendations to users.

The BBC says that the aim of the account isn't to pursue iPlayer users who haven't paid for a TV Licence, but admitted that it will cross-reference the email addresses with people who've previously claimed not to need a Licence.

If you're a British resident with a paid-up Licence Fee, the new account won't change your ability to watch iPlayer abroad - simply sign into your account, and continue to use either a VPN or altered DNS settings as described above.

The only change will be if you don't have a Licence because you live abroad or just haven't paid for one, and are hoping to access iPlayer anyway, as you'll need to give a valid UK postcode and your details to get access.