Netflix is by far the most successful streaming website in the US, and for a good reason: they have lots of content, a very reasonable monthly fee, and their service works on pretty much every electronic device in my home except my Roomba.
The only “issue” with Netflix is that it’s only available in the US (I’ll pass on the local Netflix implementations in some European countries, if you reached this page, it’s because you want the American content), and if you try to access it from Europe (France, Germany, Spain,…), Asia (Japan, Korea…), Africa, or, well, pretty much everywhere outside of the US, you are greeted with an error message.
Solutions to bypass this limitation exist, but not everyone is aware of the best one.
If you’ve done some research on the subject, you’ll see that a huge amount of sites tell you that the best way to watch Netflix in Europe on your iPad is to use a VPN. They are wrong, and the only reason they are trying to convince you of the opposite is because they get a percentage of the sale if you subscribe to the VPN they recommend.
The problem with VPNs is that they are slow: the entire content you will stream from Netflix has to go from Netflix’s servers to your VPN provider, then from the VPN provider to your machine. It adds a considerable bottleneck to your streaming session, and, when you’re lucky, it means your movie will switch between low resolution and high resolution constantly. When you’re unlucky, everybody on Earth is trying to use the VPN at the same time, and streaming on Netflix will be constantly buffering. Sure, VPNs let you watch Netflix, but definitely not in the best possible conditions.
The real good solution to watch Netflix in Spain, in France, in South Africa, or everywhere else in the world is called DNS redirection. The idea is simple but clever: instead of having to go through a third party VPN constantly, you go through a third party server only when Netflix checks for your location, at the very beginning of the session/movie. The rest, the part that matters when you are watching the movie, goes directly between Netflix servers and your computer, the “man in the middle” slow VPN is not there anymore to ruin your movie session.
The DNS redirection service I have been using for 6 months is called unblock-us. It is easier than a VPN to set up (VPNs were a concern to me because it meant explaining to my wife how to switch the connection, there is no such problem with unblock us), and the result is much faster. The video below is a comparison of me using unblock-us and a VPN (both for the same monthly fee) on Netflix:
I initially thought VPNs were the best choice because I had been wrongly suggested one, but when I saw the difference between unblock-us and a regular VPN, I knew I would use unblock-us moving forward. And, I think that’s an important point here, I just mentioned that people who are trying to sell you a VPN subscription do so because they get a percentage of the sale if you take it, but the same can be said of my unblock-us links here in the article. This is true, but the major difference is that I have been a customer of both a private VPN and unblock-us, which both claimed to be “exceptional” for Netflix support, and the truth is that unblock-us is the only service I found that truly achieves this goal. Today, I am actually subscribed to both unblock-us and that VPN because VPNs have much wider use than DNS redirection, but as far as Netflix is concerned, unblock-us is the only thing I want to use for now.
My video could be a complete lie, and so could be my testimony in the paragraph above, so the only thing I can say is that this is my honest report as a user of both unblock-us and vpn services. Now, the good thing is, unblock-us has a 7 days free trial, to prove they are doing a good job. This gives you a week to compare them with whatever VPN service you might want to try, and confirm that there is no faster way to Watch Netflix on your iPad when you’re in Europe.
If I convinced you, here’s how it goes:
How to set up Netflix on your iPad to watch Netflix outside of the US with unblock-us
The following tutorial assumes you already have a Netflix subscription (note: you can also subscribe to Netflix for a month free trial. Netflix does not care if you live in the US or not when you subscribe, as far as I can tell. Just make sure to subscribe with your credit card rather than paypal, as paypal does check that your card is from the US)
- Subscribe to the unblock-us free trial here
- On your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > WiFi
- click on the Network you are currently connected to
- In the DNS field, replace the existing IPs with the unblock-us IPs, separated by commas: 184.108.40.206,220.127.116.11
- Restart your iPad/iPhone to take into account the new parameters
- with your iPad or iPhone’s browser, go to unblock-us.com and make sure you log-in with the credentials they gave you for the free trial. The site should tell you if everything’s alright at that point
- Run Netflix and enjoy
After the 7 days free trial, unblock-us will cost $4.99 a month. Sure, I’d prefer such a thing to be free, but after a quick math, Netflix + unblock us still costs less than equivalent streaming services in Europe or in Japan, for a much better content. So in the end, for me, it was a no-brainer.
What if I can’t install Netflix on my iPad?
This is the main issue for people who are not in the US in the first place: in order to be able to install Netflix on your iPad, you need a US or Canadian account in the first place. This can be achieved by creating such an account on iTunes. In order to “verify” that you are in the US, iTunes might ask you to enter some payment information… which is a problem if you don’t have any US payment method.
I have seen several ways around that.
The one that worked for me was to set up my itunes account in a browser on itunes.com instead of going through the itunes application. somehow this let me create my account without asking for a payment method.
People have told me that in some cases the method above did not work for them. Another technique consists in trying to download a free movie from iTunes, create an account at that point, and when asked for a payment method, select “none”.
Again, the method above seems to work, but some people have reported that the payment method “none” is not always available. The last solution, and that will work in all cases, is to buy an itunes US gift card from one of the many resellers (google for it) and use that as your payment method when you create the account.