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How to watch UK TV abroad

Now that roaming charges have been lifted, it's easier than ever to watch TV overseas.

If you’re jetting off on holiday and fancy catching up on your favourite shows while you’re away, there are a couple of ways to get the job done if you have a valid TV licence.

There are plenty of TV apps to entertain you abroad. Now that new roaming regulations mean you can use your included data bundle to enjoy online content, it could be more tempting than ever to dip into your favourite shows on holiday. But beware – many TV apps are region-locked, which means you won’t be able to stream them outside the UK. And even if you have unlimited data, many mobile phone providers still place caps on your usage.

Fortunately, there’s still a good way to enjoy content overseas that won’t risk landing you with unexpected bills. Most providers, including BBC iPlayer, All 4 and Sky Go Extra, allow you to download content before you leave the UK, and you can then watch it through the app any time – even without a signal.  Read on for our tips on watching UK TV abroad.

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Download TV to watch offline

It’s usually pretty straightforward to download TV episodes to a smartphone, tablet or laptop for offline viewing. Free up some space on your device (or buy a microSD card), pick your favourites and take your shows with you. After all, you don’t want to be out of the loop when it comes to your favourite soap.

BBC iPlayer

iPlayer is one of the most popular choices when it comes to downloading TV to watch without wi-fi, offering a collection of programmes broadcast in the last 30 days.

You’ll need a valid TV licence and an internet connection to download files in the first place but, after that, you’re free to watch at home or abroad. There’s no waiting around for your show to buffer, either. Not everything that appears on iPlayer is available to download – certain sports broadcasts and films can only be streamed online. Our BBC iPlayer page has more details.

Recent changes to iPlayer mean you now need to create an account before you can use it, but it will still be free. The BBC says iPlayer will be able to offer up personalised suggestions to you as a result, based on what you’ve watched previously. For more on the changes, see our story on creating a BBC iPlayer account.

ITV Hub+

ITV Hub didn’t support offline viewing last summer, which meant you had to stick to other catch-up services to get your TV fix. But that’s changed now, and you can download ITV shows as long as you subscribe to ITV Hub+, which is £3.99 a month. The regular ITV Hub service is free to use, but doesn’t include offline viewing.

On its website, ITV explains: ‘As part of your [ITV Hub+] subscription, you’ll be able to watch ad-free on desktop, iOS and Connected TV, as well as download shows ad-free on your iOS device (iOS 10 and above)’. For now, the service is exclusively available on iOS, so Android users are out of luck. ITV also notes that the Windows Phone platform isn’t supported, and neither are Samsung smart TVs released before 2012.

To find out more on the ITV’s free streaming service, see our ITV Hub guide.

All 4

Download a show from All 4 from within the UK and you’ll be able to watch it without a phone signal while you’re abroad. Not every programme on All 4 is available to download, but those that are will be clearly marked. You need an account to download anything, and All 4 mainly shows content from the last 30 days, although some programmes are online for longer.

All 4’s ‘series stacking’ feature means certain episodes of some shows are available to download beyond 30 days. Once you’ve finished downloading a programme, you have seven days to watch it before it expires. Take a look at our All 4 page for further details on the service.

Netflix

The latest update to the Netflix mobile app adds offline support, which means you can download content to your iOS or Android mobile and watch offline.

Offline viewing for Netflix has been one of the most-requested features from members for years. Now, the streaming giant is finally offering it at no extra cost. Not everything on Netflix can be downloaded, though. You can view only a select number of Netflix Originals and movies offline, including Orange is the New Black and Narcos. We expect that more will become available soon.

You can download content to smartphones and tablets at no extra cost. Netflix Basic is the cheapest plan on offer – it’s £5.99 a month. Once you’ve downloaded something, you can watch it whenever you like, as there’s no 30-day time limit like there is on Sky Go Extra and All4.

Amazon Prime Video

As an Amazon Prime or Prime Video member, you can download select movies and TV shows to your iOS or Android device. Amazon’s Fire tablets and the Amazon Fire phone also support offline viewing. If you’re browsing the Amazon Video website abroad, you’ll notice a ‘Watch While Abroad’ banner appear above titles that you can stream right away. If you’re not on wi-fi, though, watch out for how much data you’re using.

How long you have to watch a downloaded show varies by title, and you’ll spot a notification on your device when the time is almost up. Once that time limit has passed, you’ll have to connect your gadget to a wi-fi network again to continue watching.

Sky Go Extra

The regular Sky Go package doesn’t let you download TV, but upgrading to Sky Go Extra means you can. If you’re a Sky Go Extra member, you can download content on up to four separate devices. Your downloaded shows will be deleted from your smartphone or tablet 48 hours after viewing starts, or ‘no later’ than 30 days after downloading.

If you’re already a Sky TV customer, you can try out Sky Go Extra free for two months. After that, you’ll pay £5 extra a month. Find out more about the regular Sky Go service here.

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Big-screen tablets are great holiday companions. The best tablets we’ve tested in our lab will last you all day on a single charge, and speedy processors mean you can stream your favourite TV shows without having to worry about lag.

Tempted by a tablet? Head over to our tablet reviews page, where we’ve tested the latest releases from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Lenovo. If you’re a buyer on a budget, see our guide to the best cheap tablets under £200.

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