How to watch Netflix from abroad

At the start of 2009, when I left the US to spend most of the year abroad, I was an avid Netflix subscriber, and I looked forward to being one even as I lived abroad. There was a loophole in the Netflix protocols which allowed my wife and I to watch movies from outside the US (see this post), but they plugged it very quickly — within three days after I wrote about it.

I was, needless to say, very disappointed. Here I was, a US citizen, with a US mailing address, a US bank account and a US credit card, wanting to watch movies legally instead of downloading them from torrent websites, not able to do it, just because my IP address happened to be from another country. This was not fair. I cancelled my subscription. In hindsight, my anger was unnecessary. The situation is probably a result of certain stipulations in their contracts with the movie studios.

Still, there’s obviously a need for a legal way to watch movies online, right? And until Netflix (or another company) decides to open up their servers to paying customers from all over the world (which I hear might happen), here’s how to watch Netflix from abroad, right now.

You’ll need:

  1. A US credit card and a US mailing address. If you’re from the US but you happen to be abroad, great, you’re in luck, because you probably still have both of these. If you’re not from the US, see if you can make some arrangements with friends in the US.
  2. A VPN connection that will give you a US IP address, or a DNS Proxy Service subscription which will make Netflix and other US streaming sites think you’re based in the US. 
  3. A computer that’s compatible with Netflix Streaming. At this time, I believe only Mac and Windows computers can do it. The last time I tried it, a Linux machine wasn’t compatible. You could get a Netflix-compatible device or media appliance but if you want to keep things simple, stick with a computer.

That’s all you’ll need.

The DNS Proxy Service is a fairly new offering and is, in my opinion, the easiest way to configure your device to watch Netflix from abroad, without installing any additional software or configuring a custom VPN connection. You simply change the DNS servers for your network card (see these instructions).

Now let me talk a bit about the VPN service. In the two years I’ve spent abroad, I’ve used two services: AceVPN and HideMyNet. I’m currently using HideMyNet for my VPN service, and I’ve been using them for the past four months. Both cost about the same, but from my experience, HideMyNet has faster, more reliable service.

I started out with AceVPN but after several months, I started getting a lot of buffering messages when watching Netflix (you know, where you wait for it to load up the movie). It would take minutes, sometimes 5-10 minutes to load up a movie, and toward the end of my subscription with them, the movie would stop playing multiple times as we watched it, and we had to wait for it to rebuffer. It was annoying, particularly when the movie stopped playing during a gripping scene. Who knows, perhaps they were experiencing growing pains or temporary issues with their servers…

Out of the blue, the folks from HideMyNet contacted me to see if I wanted to try their service and write about it. Disclaimer: they offered me a 1-year subscription to give an honest opinion about their service. I told them I would, but that I’d need to try out their service thoroughly before I spoke about it, and if I found anything negative, I was going to reveal that as well. That was back in April of this year. It’s now August, four months later, and after all this time, I can definitely recommend them.

I do have a few pieces of advice for you:

  • If you’re not sure how to set up a VPN connection as L2TP or PPTP on your Mac, go with OpenVPN and Tunnelblick. Check out their setup instructions for the details. If you’re on Windows, setting up an L2TP connection is super easy and takes only a few minutes.
  • Make sure to ask their Tech Support which of their servers would be faster for you. Here’s some general advice I got from them on this issue: “Generally you want to connect to whichever server is closest to you [geographically]. If you’re in the EU you should try our DC and NYC servers. If you’re in Asia you should try the Seattle or LA servers. If you’re in South America you should try the Dallas and LA servers.” 
  • They currently have a limit of two simultaneously connected devices, so keep that in mind. I believe Netflix has the same limit, but if you were, for example, watching Netflix on one computer and browsing the internet on another, both through their VPN service, you wouldn’t be able to, for example, connect a third device (computer or phone) through the VPN service until you disconnected one of other two.

So there you have it. That’s how you can watch Netflix from abroad. It’s simple, it’s easy and it’s legal.

On a side note, I can’t understand why movie studios prefer to hang on to costly and outdated ways of distributing content, and thus encourage piracy, instead of promoting lower-cost, easily available methods of renting or purchasing their content, for any customer, anywhere. There are many people who would rather pay than use torrents, but the cost is either too high, or there’s no way to pay even if they wanted to. Thank goodness for VPN technology, otherwise I’d start thinking about using the torrents as well.


17 thoughts on “How to watch Netflix from abroad

  1. No matter how much these VPN guys spam all the posts in the Internet about how good their service is, there is always one small catch they fail to mention – the amount of bandwidth they allow. They will never mention this as a headline in their website but read through their FAQ’s or their Policy and there you can see it mentioned in a small writing. – Permitted streaming upto 1/2/3 GB per day! Seriously ? A 90 min HD movie on netfilx comes to around 1.8 GB. and I can’t even watch 2 a day ? And i am required to pay $ 7-10 per month for that ?

    I don’t understand why people are still using VPN. Of course if your main concern is anonymity then go ahead use VPN’s but for streaming media it is a complete no no.

    Try out any DNS service out there and you will know the difference. There are many there and nearly all of them have free trials. Go try out one and see the difference for yourself.

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  2. First you need a valid account with Netflix. Hulu is ok without an account, but none of the services worked for me in europe using redirecting providers as unotelly, ubblock, approxymate.
    VPN is not so good. The movie is streamed tru the server, bottlenecking the server.
    30 customers watching a HD movie at 300-400 Kbytes/sec almost overflows a 100Mbit network.
    unotelly and unblock us uses DNS to redirect tru US/Canada proxy only the content and authentication domains. Once the content server provides you a list with movies, which
    are build based on geo-location, the proxy location, there is no problem to click on the movie.
    When you click on the movie, the IP of the streaming server is not hitting the DNS because
    is provided by silverlight as an IP not as a domain name. Therefore the movie is played direct
    from Netflix to your browser. You can clearly see this in approxymate.com’s automatic proxy
    configuration which works only for PC’s.

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    1. This is possibly the worst support for MAC I have ever encountered. I spent 5 hours with an idiot online support person who kept referring me to the worst written instructions I have ever seen–out of order, not representing what is on the screen, leaving out steps. Clearly the support person wouldn’t know q MAC from horse’s behind and the emails I kept receiveing constantly referred me to PC products rather than anything one could use to connect a MAC. I can’t believe you woudl recommend this except to your worst enemy. I can’t even get to superbvpn, let alone recommend it.
      bea

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  3. If I get a VPN, will it affect anything else I do in my computer? Will location services still work like google map if I change my ip address to the us when I’m in the Philippines? Can I turn on the VPN only when I want to watch Netflix and turn it off when I’m doing other things online? And can I watch Netflix from my iPad, too? I prefer watching from my iPad. Thanks!

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  4. I have a Netflix account in the UK. Doing the above meant I could see the content from the US. I can flip between easily! You rock!

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  5. I wouldn’t recommend sunvpn — these guys have like 6 servers worldwide. Are you serious? It’s a joke. My current provider (see my comment above: http://vpnfor.us/) has 206 servers around the globe. For the same price. And everything works perfectly 🙂

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  6. Yes, I must agree with the comment above. VPN should be more reliable than other services. I found this web page VPN for US (http://vpnfor.us/). I think they are just re-selling HideMyAss), followed their instructions and it’s working since. No complaints here.

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  7. Great article – thanks! I live in Asia part time and always use netflix in the US.. now I can use it here. Just downloaded and it worked perfectly! Thanks much! AT

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  8. Habar n-am ce e ala Netflix , da din cate am citit eu aici e multa bataie de cap. Mai bine faceti rost de un cont pe un tracker gen Filelist mai ales ca acuma s-a deschis sezonu’ de invitatii ,aveti absolut tot ce e nou,in orice tara din lume, Creca si in cea mai nasoala tara din Africa merge :)):))

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    1. Gabi, tu realizezi sau nu ca e ilegal ce propui (si probabil ce faci) tu? Nu ti-e putin la obraz, sau e prea gros ca sa-ti dai seama? Ceea ce faci este furt. Furi munca creativa a oamenilor care lucreaza sa faca filme, si crede-ma, muncesc din greu, nu e usor ce fac ei.

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      1. O chestie: daca nu as fi trait in Romania , ci sa zicem in Franta si as fi avut banii unui francez sa zicem de rand,nu bogat , logic ca as fi cumparat filmele!!! Dar , traim in Romania, unde ma uit de 10 ori pe site-uri inainte sa imi cumpar o pereche de casti ,ca sa vad unde e mai ieftin !!!! Si nu ,in aceste conditii nu mi-e rusine sa iau un film de pe Filelist.

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        1. Deci sa dai $8 (24 RON) pe luna pentru ca sa vezi cate filme poti, complet legal, ti se pare mult, dar sa dai aceeasi bani sau mai mult, pentru cateva beri cu prietenii pe o singura seara nu e mult, nu? Nu spun ca pe asta dai tu banii, e doar un exemplu ca sa poti compara.

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