How to watch Netflix from any country on any device

Netflix can be watched from any country, on any device: smart phone, tablet, PC or TV. There are a number of ways this can be achieved, and they vary in complexity and cost. Read on to find out how...

tl;dr - Unless you are on a computer with fast wifi, DO NOT USE A VPN! Use a DNS Proxy (also known as "smart DNS").

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Netflix is an amazing video streaming service. Currently available in all the following countries:

However, there are 2 problems with this coverage.

1. Many countries cannot access Netflix content.
In addition, citizens of the countries where Netflix is provided, cannot watch from these remaining countries when abroad (living, work or holiday), even if they are paying for a Netflix subscription.
2. The content catalogue varies widely by country.
America has by far the largest selection of content, but in many regions it is very limited. Although your country may have Netflix, the content you can see will be restricted by region. You will still need to mask your location to be able to view all the best Netflix content.


In spite of these restrictions, anyone can sign up for a monthly Netflix subscription, and Netflix can be viewed cheaply, or for free from any country.

I live in Japan, and my children and I watch Netflix directly on our TV, and mobile devices. We also regularly switch between Netflix US, and UK depending on which country’s content we wish to view. As I am from England, I personally prefer my children to watch some British childrens shows.

When I was researching the best method to view Netflix from abroad, I found a lot of incorrect and misleading information on the internet. Lots of "Just sign up for this VPN", without any information about how to proceed, or what the VPN actually anables you to do. This is an honest account of how one Dad actually got it all set up, the costs involved, and the problems you may encounter.

Over several years of enjoying Netflix in Japan, and trying many of the options available, I use what I consider the cheapest and best options available. I will keep this site updated on any changes to my connection methods, or recommendations that may result from new technology, or changes to the Netflix terms of service.

I’ll quickly add here, that although this article is primarily about Netflix, the process is the same for watching other country restricted streaming services, such as the BBC iPlayer or Hulu.

STEP 1 - Create a Netflix account

Anyone can create a Netflix account. I followed this article "How to sign up for a US Netflix Account". I can confirm that there is no problem using a credit card from a country outside of an available Netflix region. I use a Japanese credit card, and I registered with and pay using this card.

STEP2 - Mask location

If you try to watch Netflix from an unofficial location, you will see this message.

However, there are many ways to mask your location and watch Netflix abroad. The costs vary depending on the method, and the device you wish to view on. I will outline the process for each device below.

Netflix on a computer (desktop, notebook or netbook)



Monthly Cost: FREE

Watching Netflix on a computer is by far the easiest method. Download the Chrome "Hola Better Internet" extension, or Firefox "Hola Unblocker" Add-on. Hola is a free VPN service and allows you to select from a large list of countries, and even from a list of servers within those countries.

You could google around for similar free VPN plugins, try them all out, and choose the best one for you. Or you could trust me that Hola works very well, and has great streaming speed.

UPDATE: 18th Sep 2014

I got a browser warning from Chrome today, to say that an extension had changed my browser settings. It also said something along the lines that it was following my browsing history (I forgot to take a screen shot). I was told to check Extensions that change your settings to see which extension was the culprit. It was Hola. Also Hola was turned off. I assume that Hola is monetizing by collecting data on your browsing habits. Now, considering that Hola is free, and Google, Facebook, etc, are doing the same thing, this may not be so bad. Just be aware that nothing is really "free" on the internet ^^;

If you want privacy, you're doing to need to pay a little.

Netflix on a Mobile Device (tablet or smartphone)

VPN Recommendation:

Tunnel Bear

Monthly Cost: $4.99 ($4.16 /month for yearly plan)

VPN + Smart DNS Recommendation:


Monthly Cost: $9.95 ($4.16 /month for yearly plan)

Mobile devices pose more of a challenge than computers. There are free VPN services for mobile devices, and I spent some time trying out some of the options. Why pay, when there are free alternatives...
In the end though, I just couldn’t get a reliable, fast enough connection on either my iOS or android devices. I would assume that providing multiple servers around the globe, involves a significant investment for a VPN service. So little surprise that free VPNs can’t provide the high data capacity required for stable video streaming.

After looking into the paid VPNs, I found one company in particular, “Tunnel Bear”, was often highly recommended. They provide a free 500MB monthly plan (which increases if friends and family sign up too). I started on this free plan, and when the data was used up for the month it would just stop. No extra charges.

Tunnel Bear is incredibly simple to setup and use, and in my experience, fast. There are many other companies providing similar services, but it’s the one that I prefer. Also, on the odd occasion I have needed to ask a question, they got back to me right away.

After establishing that the connection speed was sufficient, I started on their paid monthly plan. After a few months with no issues, I switched to the Yearly plan. At $49.99 a year, I can’t recommend them enough. It’s easily worth the roughly $4 a month to access any Ameican or British content, on any device. BTW, you get 1 PC and 2 mobile devices for that price.

They really do seem to be a nice bunch of guys, and I'm happy to give them a plug (ツ)

If you also require Smart DNS (see TV section below) then PureVPN has great options for the price. It's a lot more expensive than Tunnel Bear for the monthly plan, but they are currently heavily discounting for a yearly subscription.

Setup Screenshots

This example is using Tunnel Bear on an iPhone, but the setup process is similar for any of the VPN providers on both iOS and Android.

Tunnel Bear screenshotInstall the free Tunnel Bear app.
Tunnel Bear screenshotAllow it to install VPN settings.
Tunnel Bear screenshotOnce the settings are installed, open the app.
Tunnel Bear screenshotIt will show how much data you have (top right). Unlimited for the paid service, or how much of the 500MB you have left for the free plan. The app doesn't need to be turned on to use the VPN service. It is only to see data or your plans expiry date.
Tunnel Bear screenshotWhen you want to use the VPN, simply go to settings and click on VPN.
Tunnel Bear screenshotChoose which country's Netflix you want to watch. For example, if you want to switch to Netflix UK, change the counrty here. When you open the Netflix app on your mobile device, you will now be presented with the UK program catalogue.

Netfix on a TV

Smart DNS Recommendation:


Monthly Cost: $4.95

VPN + Smart DNS Recommendation:


Monthly Cost: $9.95 ($4.16 /month for yearly plan)

This is where things get more complex if you want to watch Netflix directly on your TV. If you don't have a Smart TV, you need an internet enabled device that plugs into your TV, such as a set top box (Apple TV, Boxee Box, Roku) or gaming console (Playstation, Xbox, Wii).

I bought an AppleTV because the "Airplay" function allows you to stream video from iOS devices to the TV. This works extremely well with an Ipad in particular, which has a large enough screen to comfotably browse the Netflix video library on. As I was already using the Tunnel Bear VPN service on the Ipad, it didn't cost me anything more to stream Netflix movies through the Apple TV to my TV. As Tunnel Bear provides 500MB of free data a month, this is enough to at least check that everything works properly, and the speed is sufficient before paying for more data. If you have a mac computer, you could use a free VPN like Hola, and then stream that to the apple TV for free.

I found the downside to streaming over AirPlay, was that if one person was watching Netflix, nobody else could use the Ipad! There were also speed issues with streaming through both a VPN, and Airplay. Netflix reduces the picture quality, when it detects low bandwidth, in an effort to prevent buffering.

The only practical way to get Netflix direct into the TV is to use some type of proxy service. However, as the Apple TV doesn’t support a VPN, you need to enable the router to do this. As most routers also don’t support VPN out of the bag, a common approach to to install open source custom firmware on your router, with Tomato and DD-WRT being popular choices.

I'm going to take the liberty of assuming that most people won't want to go to the effort (and risk) of flashing their router with third party firmware, and so I’ll assume that this is not really a viable approach for most people. As and you will see, it isn't even the best option anyway.

Enter Smart DNS. Before explaining what Smart DNS, let's first clarify what the alternative, a VPN, is.

What is a VPN

For our purposes, A VPN is a private network that allows us to access websites over the (public) internet through secure "virtual" connections. The data is encrypted, and so can’t be read if intercepted.

However, as the data has to pass through remote servers, there can be significant latency and congestion. This leads to lower bandwidth, which in the case of streaming video, can render the service practically unusable. If you try out a few different VPN companies, you will find that depending on the number and location of the servers, they vary quite considerably in speed.

Popular VPNs such as “Hide My Ass” or “PureVPN”, run multiple servers all over the world to handle the traffic. However, for streaming video there is a FASTER and CHEAPER alternative; Smart DNS.

What is Smart DNS

The website “Eye on Demand” explains it so well, allow me to quote them verbatum!

“Smart DNS is a service which differs from VPN‘s in that network traffic is not all tunneled to the remote network. Only traffic required for determining your geographical location are re-routed, which does not include normal Internet usage, nor the video stream itself. The advantages are far higher internet speeds, allowing high quality video streams to play from further afield and the ability to access content independent of which country it originates. You don’t need to connect through a VPN and it is easier to set up on devices which are otherwise problematic, such as Smart TVs and many set-top boxes. Smart DNS is generally the best choice if you want access to multiple services from different countries and prefer to watch on a television rather than a PC (although it works perfectly well on PCs and Laptops). Like VPNs, Smart DNS does not gain access to services which require 3rd party payments, these payment subscriptions still need to be purchased. Note: Unlike VPNs, Smart DNS does not encrypt your traffic or hide your IP address.”

This last sentence is quite important. A VPN is essential if you require security. It is the ONLY advantage over the faster and cheaper Smart DNS. I am certainly not denying that there are situations where security is essential, but I personally do not think that watching Netflix is one of them. If you are worried about the possibility of a hacker discovering that you like to watch “My Little Pony” every Saturday night, then go ahead and reconfigure your router and use a VPN. Otherwide, Smart DNS is the smart way to go.

UPDATE: 28th March 2015

After 2 years of using "Overplay" for my Smart DNS, I have changed provider. I had connection problems for a couple of weeks that we couldn't resolve. Their service was great and their support response time was fast. I would still recommend them. At only $4.95 it is much cheaper than any of the VPN providers' monthly plans.

A cheap and reliable Smart DNS service I now find is better is provided by "Unlocator". They are also $4.95 a month, and have a free one week trial.

Another option is to use "PureVPN". They bundle Smart DNS for free with their VPN service, and so if you sign up for their yearly plan, it works out as the cheapest option at only $4.16 a month. Although you won't need the VPN for watching Netflix on your TV, there are still many reasons for having a fast VPN too. If you ever use a coffee shop or hotel wifi, you should be on a VPN.

How to setup your device to use Smart DNS

Apart from being fast (no effect on bandwidth) and cheap, Smart DNS is simple to setup.

On the Unlocator website they have a lot of useful information for setting up your set top box, gaming console or smart TV. They have clear instructions and even a video to show how to configure the DNS for all the major devices. You can see the list of guides on their page "Setup Guides for Unlocator".

If you want to see how fast and easy it is, have a look at their video on How to Setup Apple TV. The whole video is less than a couple of minutes long, and in that time they both choose the Netflix location to watch, and configure the DNS setting.

Once the DNS is set, there is no need to ever change it. Simply changing the itunes country location in the apple TV settings, and you can access the Netflix catalog for that country. Flipping back and forth between Netflix regions takes a matter of seconds.

Settings > General > iTunes Store > Location > United States
When you open the Netflix app on the Apple TV you will have the American program list.
Settings > General > iTunes Store > Location > UK
Now you have the UK program list!

I hope you can see that regardless of where you live, and what device you wish to watch on, there is an easy and inexpensive option to view Netflix (or any other streaming video service).

Happy Viewing!