It’s no secret that Netflix’s content library in the U.S. is far superior to what you get in the UK, at least in terms of the number of shows you can watch.
While Netflix will make content it’s commissioned itself like Stranger Things and Black Mirror available almost everywhere, some third party shows which Netflix doesn’t have international rights to, won’t be.
By the same token, shows like Happy Valley and Marcella are produced by the BBC and ITV respectively, and are not, at the time of writing, available outside of Netflix’s UK library.
This guide is intended to demonstrate how you can watch content from abroad, what a VPN is, and where you stand legally with Netflix and VPN use.
Related: Best VPN
What is a VPN?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) client is software installed on your desktop, tablet, or phone, and will create an encrypted connection between your device and the VPN provider’s servers.
They’re especially useful for people who frequently travel for work, or anyone who has to use an open public Wi-Fi access point – as open public Wi-Fi aren’t secure, it’s a good idea to keep your device’s details and your connection logs private.
Because a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between where you physically are and one of the VPN provider’s servers – which are often located in numerous countries around the world – it is possible to browse the web in one country and make it look like you’re actually based in another country, because that’s where the provider’s endpoint server is based.
A side-effect of this is that streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer, which lock access to parts (or all of) their content libraries to specific IP addresses. However, you can use a VPN to access any region-locked content libraries, regardless of where you are in the world.
Related: How to watch BBC iPlayer abroad
What is the best VPN for accessing US Netflix from outside the US?
The best VPN for streaming, according to our most recent round of testing, is NordVPN, which was able to give us access to Netflix.
HideMyAss! (HMA), which currently gets our recommendation for best VPN for international coverage, offers subscribers the largest number of servers and endpoints, making it a good VPN to try out for streaming.
Kaspersky Secure Connection proved to be the best VPN overall for speeds, and if you’re trying to stream content, the more bandwidth you can get your hands on, the better. However, in our last VPN group test, Netflix detected us every time we tried to access region-locked libraries with Kaspersky.
Windscribe is another great option if you’re after speed, and the free version gives you a generous 10GB data cap. Also, in our last round of testing, we were able to access the U.S. Netflix library from outside the United States.
Note that as VPN providers open more endpoints and enable stealth modes, which make it harder for the likes of Netflix to guess that you are using a VPN, results of our tests may vary. At the same time, Netflix and other streaming platforms are continually redoubling their VPN detection efforts, to varying degrees of success. We refresh our VPN reviews regularly, and update scores and rankings depending on whether providers are detected or not.
Related: Best VPNs for streaming
Can I legally watch Netflix with a VPN?
Technically, you are not breaking any laws by doing this, but contractually, it is a grey area.
Netflix emphatically does not want its customers using VPNs to bypass region-locked content. This is why it has, in recent years, been making it hard for VPN users who try to hop the fences.
This is because Netflix has struck specific licencing agreements with rights holders for specific countries and markets, and, using a VPN to access content that’s not available from Netflix in your home country dilutes the value of those agreements. Netflix, as a distributor of other people’s content, has to make an effort to make sure that subscribers from a certain country can only watch content that Netflix has the rights to stream in that specific country.
“You may view the Netflix content primarily within the country in which you have established your account and only in geographic locations where we offer our service and have licensed such content.”
Netflix does not currently explicitly state anywhere in its terms that using a VPN will see your account deactivated, but, it does state in Section 4.8 of its terms, that:
While VPNs are not explicitly mentioned here, a key word there is ‘circumvent’. Technically speaking, if you were to use a VPN to make it look as though you’re a paying customer from the US of A, instead of Her Majesty’s United Kingdom, for example, you would be circumventing a regional restriction.
Netflix does reserve the right to restrict or shut down accounts, but its terms suggest that it’s more interested in doing that to people stealing and redistributing content.
Still, using VPNs? Netflix doesn’t want you do to that – and it may start suspending users who do in the future.
How else can I watch Netflix content abroad?
As with BBC iPlayer, some Netflix shows can be downloaded locally to your device, so if you’re off on holiday, this is generally your best option.