From being able to use your beloved Netflix account freely to catching up on The Great British Bake Off on iPlayer or logging into your home bank account when abroad, many expats come up against website access issues when they’ve relocated overseas. The issue is quite simple: it’s all to do with your pesky old IP address, which contains information about your geographical location. Some websites will block users from accessing them from outside the country the site is based in, some for security reasons and others because of local commercial laws. And this is all very complicated and irritating to any expat wishing to settle somewhere new.

The solution is simple, though: you just need a VPN or a Virtual Private Network. This is a service that enables you to connect to a network remotely and securely and share data through public networks. Much in the same way that a firewall protects the data on your computer, VPNs protect all of this online. And since the VPN user’s IP address is swapped for a VPN provider when connected, local content filters can be bypassed. Hurrah!

Are VPNs Legal?

When used for moral, legal activities, VPNs are considered legal in most countries. Notable exceptions to this rule are Iran, North Korea and China, all of whom have either banned or impose heavy restrictions on the use of VPNs. When it comes to streaming media through sites like Spotify or Netflix, you will find some stipulate that content is only available to users within specific territories. Having said this, most sites won’t ask you to agree to terms or conditions regarding VPN streaming before you start viewing or listening to their media, so it’s something of a grey area.

So, with a VPN you can use the internet from your new apartment in New York but trick the internet into thinking that you’re back home in Manchester. You can continue to use your US Amazon and eBay accounts – with all their relevant stored data – from France, and log into your NatWest account safely and securely from your new home in Australia. Most importantly, a VPN lets you continue to deal with the websites you want and need to continue dealing with, no matter where in the world you move to.

Which VPN?

Ask other expats for their personal advice first of all, though bear in mind that you’ll need separate VPN connection for each country you want to access media services in. VPNs can also slow internet connections down so they should only be connected when needed, then disconnected again. VPNs which allow you to connect over several devices are sure to become ever more popular as we move from laptop to tablet and mobile, too. So, in no particular order, let us recommend:

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This one has a superb reputation for privacy as well as some of the fastest connection speeds on the market – or so they claim. Popular P2P services like BitTorrent are accessible with IPVanish, and they also run their own Tier 1 network. IPVanish is one of the first providers to set up VPNs in locations with few other VPN options – such as Egypt and Panama – and their customer support is thought to be very good.

Hide My Ass

This cheekily-named provider is one of the best-known on the market at the moment thanks to their staunch commitment to internet anonymity. They also provide free, easy-to-use software with all subscriptions and they enable users to encrypt all internet use automatically. Speedy, widely-available and very compatible. Hide My Ass VPN.

Express VPN

A broad ranging service that’s ideal for the less techy VPN user thanks to its host of user-friendly features. This is a big and long-established service providing a speedy connection from almost all over the globe. ExpressVPN also offers apps for Android and iOS, and super simple Windows and OSX clients. Users rate its setup guides highly, and they also offer a 30 day money back guarantee for extra peace of mind.


Speedy and highly compatible if you choose the Pro service, since this one allows up to three simultaneous connections and is a great all-rounder. It has simple Windows and OSX clients and user-friendly Android and iOS apps. VyprVPN actually own their own networks, which means you can expect very decent speeds. They’ve also developed their own feature called Chameleon which can conceal the fact that you are using a VPN at all. Get 50% off your first month with VyprVPN

Private Internet Access

If privacy is an important factor in your VPN choice, PIA could be the one for you. This provider stores no logs, it uses shared IPs, and also accepts anonymous Bitcoin payment. PIA also offers a brand new and very strong OpenVPN encryption, and an advanced Windows and OSX client with added DNS leak protection. It also allows up to five devices to connect at once which is great for the more technologically-advanced VPN user. Needless to say, PIA isn’t necessarily the provider of choice for newbies or the less digitally-inclined expat.

My Private Network

This is a class act VPN that can bypass any country-specific restrictions on internet use, and it also supports all major software platforms. Become a ‘virtual resident’ of a country separate to the one you’re in at the time, with enhanced security when you connect to public Wi-Fi. Once connected to a My Private Network VPN, all traffic is automatically encrypted for your privacy.

N.B. Xbox 360 and Apple TV do not support connecting directly to a VPN, however you can use a second router running DD-WRT to establish the VPN connections.

Compare the best VPNs for expats

IPVanishHideMyAssExpressVPNVyprVPNPrivate Internet AccessMy Private Network
Countries Covered60754740+920
Windows 8?NoYesYesYesYesYes
Xbox 360?YesYesNoYesYesYes
Apple TV?YesYesNoYesNoYes
1 Month Plan

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1 Year Plan

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Free Trial?-30 days-3 days--
Based InUSAUKUnited StatesSwitzerlandUSAUK

Do you have a great VPN tip for your country? Any networks you’d avoid in future? Let us know what’s what by dropping us a comment below!