Have you ever traveled abroad or lived as an expat, only to find that your favorite shows on Netflix were no longer available? Or perhaps you‘ve heard about cool Netflix content that exists in other countries and wanted to access it from home?
Using a virtual private network (VPN) provides an easy way to bypass the geographic restrictions on Netflix. By routing your traffic through another country, a VPN can trick Netflix into displaying foreign libraries as if you were actually in that location.
In this guide, I‘ll explain everything you need to know about watching Netflix with a VPN. You‘ll learn:
- How VPNs work to change your Netflix region
- The best VPNs to use for streaming Netflix
- Free VPN options that work with Netflix
- How to choose the right VPN for accessing Netflix
- Troubleshooting tips for when your VPN stops working
- Why Netflix shows different content by country
- If using a VPN with Netflix is legal and safe
- How to change your Netflix region without a VPN
Let‘s get started! I‘ll walk you through this step-by-step so you can unlock worldwide Netflix access.
How VPNs Allow You to Watch Foreign Netflix Libraries
Like many streaming services, Netflix divides its content catalog into geographic regions. What you can view depends on what country your account is based in.
For example, a user registered in the U.S. can only access the U.S. Netflix library. Trying to watch Netflix in the UK with that same account would result in missing shows, as you‘d still be served the U.S. catalog.
Netflix enforces these country restrictions based on your IP address when connecting to its servers. An IP address acts like an ID, indicating what country you are accessing the internet from.
So if you try watching Netflix on vacation abroad, your foreign IP address signals to Netflix that you are no longer in your home country. As a result, it blocks access to the library you normally see.
A VPN gets around this regional blocking by hiding your true location. After connecting to a VPN server, your traffic is routed through an encrypted tunnel to that server‘s location.
This gives you an IP address from the VPN server‘s country. As far as Netflix is concerned, you are now accessing it from that location instead of your physical address.
For example, say you have a U.S. Netflix account. When traveling in Europe, you could connect to a VPN server in the U.S. Your IP address would then appear American, allowing you to view the U.S. Netflix library again.
Similarly, connecting to a U.K. VPN server from the U.S. makes Netflix think you are British. This grants access to exclusive shows and films only available on U.K. Netflix.
VPN servers are available in virtually every country worldwide. That means you can freely "jump" between Netflix regions to enjoy much more content.
The Best VPNs for Accessing Netflix
The key when picking a VPN for streaming Netflix is finding one that can reliably bypass geography blocks. Netflix tries to prevent VPN access, so compatibility can be hit or miss.
Through extensive testing, these top services stood out for offering fast, consistent connections to worldwide Netflix libraries:
ExpressVPN earns top marks for speed, reliability, and ease of use. Its large server network delivers flawless Netflix performance, while MediaStreamer SmartDNS provides added unblocking ability. Apps are intuitive to use on all major platforms.
NordVPN is another excellent choice, combining robust security features with consistent Netflix support across its 5000+ global servers. Useful tips in the app highlight which servers work for streaming. Speeds are blazing fast thanks to NordLynx protocol.
For a budget pick, Surfshark offers impressive value. Despite its low pricing, it unblocks Netflix quickly and stably. Netflix libraries streamed smoothly in HD quality during testing. Surfshark also provides unlimited device connections.
CyberGhost shines for streaming thanks to dedicated servers optimized for Netflix and other services. Performance was reliable, with U.S. Netflix streaming in crisp 1080p quality. Smart rules can auto-connect to streaming-friendly servers.
Private Internet Access
PIA may not have the fanciest interfaces, but it gets the job done on a budget. Solid speeds, large server network, and consistent Netflix access across its US, UK, Canada, and Australia servers.
No matter which VPN you ultimately go with, be sure to take advantage of the free trial periods on offer. Testing them out is the best way to determine which one works seamlessly for your needs.
Free VPN Options for Netflix
Free VPN services do exist as well, but they come with some severe limitations. Due to the costs of running VPN infrastructure, totally free VPNs will cut corners that compromise privacy, speeds, and Netflix functionality.
Proceed with caution, but some "freemium" models with restrictions can work in a pinch:
- Windscribe – Offers 10GB/month free. Below average speeds but can access major Netflix regions.
- ProtonVPN – Provides unlimited bandwidth but only 3 countries available on the free plan.
- Opera – Built-in free VPN has unlimited data but very limited speeds and server selection.
- AtlasVPN – No data cap but fewer than 10 countries available to free users.
6 Criteria for Picking the Ideal Netflix VPN
Beyond just the ability to access Netflix content worldwide, there are several other factors to evaluate when choosing a VPN for streaming:
1. Fast connection speeds
Slow buffering kills the viewing experience. Try to find a VPN that offers ultra-fast servers optimized for HD and 4K streaming. Newer protocols like WireGuard tend to be less speed intensive.
2. Unlimited bandwidth
Watching video can eat up data quickly. Avoid VPNs enforcing data caps or speed throttling, which interrupt streams. Look for unlimited data allowances.
3. Worldwide server locations
More server locations expands your Netflix library options. Top services have thousands of servers spanning across continents.
4. Reliable streaming features
Extras like SmartDNS, stealth protocols, and dedicated streaming servers improve access reliability for Netflix and other geo-blocked platforms.
5. Multiple device connections
Being able to connect 5+ devices simultaneously is ideal for households. You don‘t want to constantly disconnect devices when someone wants to start a stream.
6. Multi-platform apps
User-friendly apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and more make accessing Netflix easy on any device, both at home and on the go.
Follow these criteria closely, and you‘ll find a VPN that checks all the boxes for smooth Netflix streaming anywhere in the world.
Troubleshooting VPNs When Netflix Stops Working
It can be immensely frustrating when your VPN suddenly stops providing access to Netflix or displays error messages. This happens because Netflix actively works to block IP addresses associated with VPN services.
Don‘t panic! Here are some troubleshooting techniques to restore your VPN‘s ability to stream Netflix:
- Switch server locations – Connecting to another VPN server in the same country can bypass IP blocks on specific ones.
- Change protocols – Try toggling between protocols like OpenVPN UDP vs TCP or IKEv2/WireGuard for new IP allotments.
- Clear cookies/data – Apps and websites store cookies and data that may be blocking access. Wiping them resets these entries.
- Contact customer support – Reach out to your VPN‘s support team if issues persist for help troubleshooting.
- Restart everything – Simply restarting your device, router, modem can force fresh network connections.
- Update apps – Using outdated VPN or Netflix apps can trigger incompatibility issues.
- Use SmartDNS as backup – If your VPN stops working, SmartDNS often still slips by Netflix blocks (more details below).
- Switch VPN services – As a last resort, you may have to swap to an entirely different VPN provider to regain access.
With some patience and experimenting, you should be able to get Netflix streaming smoothly again through your VPN. Outright bans or account terminations are extremely uncommon.
Why Netflix Content Varies by Country
Ever wonder why the exact same global streaming service offers entirely different shows and movies depending on where you live? It all comes down to licensing agreements.
For any piece of content it makes available, Netflix first has to negotiate contracts with the studios, networks, and production companies owning the distribution rights. This is done on a country-by-country basis.
Often the studios will already have existing deals with local broadcasters and streaming companies in certain markets. Or they may strategically limit what content to license to Netflix locally, holding some back for competitors.
The result is that the catalog of shows and films available to Netflix varies widely across geographic regions. Even Netflix‘s own original programming may not have worldwide distribution rights.
According to an analysis by UBS, the Netflix catalog only has a 32% overlap globally. The other 68% of content is exclusive to individual country libraries.
That fractured content availability explains why a VPN is so useful – it lets you step into the shoes of users worldwide to access a much larger library.
Is Using a VPN to Watch Netflix Legal and Safe?
You may be wondering if using a VPN to access Netflix is entirely legal and if your account could get banned. Let‘s break down the key considerations:
Operating and using a VPN is 100% legal in most countries. The only places with significant restrictions are China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and the UAE.
Some schools and workplaces may prohibit using a personal VPN on their networks. But there are no blanket laws otherwise restricting VPN usage around the world.
Netflix Terms of Service
Netflix does explicitly prohibit accessing content from other regions in its Terms of Service. The applicable sections state:
"The content that may be available to watch on the Service will vary by geographic location. Netflix will use technologies to verify your geographic location to provide you with the appropriate content for your location."
And regarding VPNs:
"You may view 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. The content that is available to watch may vary by geographic location."
So Netflix does not approve of VPN or proxy usage to view out-of-region content. However…
Risk of account suspension
While it violates the Terms of Service, the chances of Netflix outright suspending your personal account just for using a VPN are extremely slim.
Millions of users access foreign Netflix libraries on a regular basis with no issues. In most cases, the worst that happens is Netflix blocks particular VPN IP addresses.
As long as you switch servers when you encounter access problems, you can safely view any regional Netflix library without great risk of a ban.
Changing Netflix Region Without a VPN Using SmartDNS
For those uncomfortable using VPNs or struggling to make them work properly with Netflix, SmartDNS offers an alternative.
Rather than routing your traffic through an encrypted tunnel like a VPN, SmartDNS simply overrides the DNS server addresses configured on your device.
DNS (Domain Name System) is like an internet phone book – it translates domain names like "netflix.com" into the actual IP addresses of Netflix‘s servers.
Your device checks in with the DNS server when attempting to connect to any website. SmartDNS services provide DNS servers that return region-specific IP addresses for geo-restricted sites.
So for Netflix, the SmartDNS servers will give your device the IP addresses used for that country‘s version of the site. This fools Netflix into showing you that localized library, while your device still connects directly without a VPN.
Some popular SmartDNS options include:
- ExpressVPN MediaStreamer – Fast, reliable, easy to set up. Works on a wide array of devices.
- NordVPN SmartPlay – Great if you already use NordVPN. Integrates seamlessly and can combine with VPN.
- Unlocator – Budget-friendly with a free trial available. Supports the major streaming platforms.
- IVPN Config Guide – IVPN provides setup instructions to use alternative public SmartDNS services.
The one downside is that SmartDNS does not route your traffic through an encrypted VPN tunnel. But for accessing geo-blocked streaming content, it provides a handy workaround.
Watching Netflix with a VPN – A Quick Recap
Here‘s a quick rundown of the key points about accessing worldwide Netflix libraries with a VPN:
- Sign up for the VPN service that best meets your needs – ExpressVPN and NordVPN are top choices.
- Download and install the VPN app on the devices you want to watch Netflix on.
- Connect to a VPN server located in the country whose Netflix catalog you wish to view.
- Launch Netflix and enjoy all the shows and movies that were previously unavailable!
- If your VPN stops working with Netflix, try the troubleshooting tips mentioned earlier.
And that‘s it! With just those few simple steps, you can unlock Netflix libraries from anywhere in the world. Take advantage of free VPN trials to test which service you like most.
Happy streaming! A VPN frees you to watch Netflix no matter where you roam.
Frequently Asked Questions About Netflix VPN Access
Here are answers to some common questions about accessing Netflix via VPN:
Can I watch Netflix with a free VPN?
Yes, but with limitations. Free VPNs like Windscribe, AtlasVPN, and Opera Browser VPN can access Netflix but offer restricted speeds, bandwidth, and server locations. Paid services provide a better experience.
Does using a VPN for Netflix slow down my connection?
VPNs can slightly reduce speeds due to added encryption overhead and distant server routing. However, recent protocols like WireGuard greatly minimize the impact. The best premium VPNs have ultra-fast servers that support HD and 4K streaming.
Can I get in trouble legally for streaming Netflix with a VPN?
In most countries, using a VPN itself is perfectly legal. Accessing geo-blocked content goes against Netflix Terms of Service but carries minimal risk of your personal account being suspended or banned. Millions of users stream Netflix daily via VPN without issue.
How much bandwidth does Netflix use?
At standard definition quality, Netflix uses about 1 GB of data per hour. This increases to 3 GB per hour for HD and 7 GB per hour for 4K Ultra HD quality video. Watching frequently can consume large amounts of bandwidth.
Can I use a VPN on my Smart TV for Netflix?
Yes, nearly every major VPN provider offers apps for Smart TVs from brands like Samsung, LG, Sony, etc. Alternatively, you can connect devices like a Fire Stick or Apple TV to your Smart TV and run the VPN on them instead.
How many Netflix regions are there?
Netflix has over 190 country-specific regions worldwide. The largest libraries belong to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan. A VPN lets you freely access content from any of these regions.
I hope this guide helped explain everything you need to know about accessing Netflix with a VPN! Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions. Happy streaming!