Important Update: our recommended way to watch Netflix outside of the US on your android device is now to use Unblock-US. Our tutorial on how to set it up on your Android device (especialy the mk802 III) can be found here. Our comparison of Unblock-US versus the previously recommended VPN setup can be found here. Note that a VPN might still remain your option of choice if you want to do more than Netflix with it!
Netflix is one of the best “bang for your bucks” TV on demand service in the world. Sadly, it is only accessible from a few countries, and its best offers are available to US residents only.
If you are a US resident, but travel a lot, or simply if you do not live in the US but are a huge fan of US movies and TV shows, you are probably looking for solutions to watch Netflix from outside the US.
I myself live in Japan, and I have been enjoying Netflix from Japan for the past 6 months without an issue. I’ve been doing this on an Android Mini PC (a.k.a Droid stick) named the MK802 (see the review here) which I am using to turn my TV into a smart TV, but I’ve also tested the PC version as well as the PS3 version without an issue.
Disclaimer: This technique will not allow you to access Netflix services for free! You will (of course!) need to subscribe to Netflix regularly, and pay your monthly subscription fee like anybody else. Note however that Netflix has a 1-month free trial offer that might allow you to test if this technique is acceptable for you or not. They will still ask you for a valid Credit Card.
Long story short
The basic idea to access Netflix from Japan or any non us country in the world is to make Netflix believe that you are accessing their service from the US. This is absolutely not illegal, and is done through a system called a VPN (virtual Private Network). The basic idea is that you connect to another computer located in the US, which will itself connect to Netflix, and be used as an “intermediate” between you and Netflix. This sounds complex, but is actually very easy to set up on most modern devices, including Windows and Android computers.
The first step is to take a subscription to a VPN provider. I have personally been using boxpn.com and I am very happy with their service. I am not affiliated with them in any way, but at about $5 a month they are one of the cheapest ones out there, and provide several entry points in various countries, including several ones in the US. They also have a good reputation of respecting their clients’ privacy and not keeping any logs.
Note that they mention an additional fee for smartphone/tablet support: this is a bit misleading. The default account will work on any one of your devices that supports VPN, what their additional fee offers is a possibility for 2 devices to be connected to the VPN at the same time, which I personally rarely need.
Once you have a subscription to boxpn (or any other VPN provider), they will send you credentials for you to connect to their network: a username, password, as well as the address of their server, the “intermediate” server I mentioned above.
How and where to enter these credentials is described very clearly on their website on this page, with explanations for Windows (including Vista, windows XP, and windows 7), as well as MacOS, iOS (iPad and iPhone), or Android. Basically, this consists in creating a new internet connection (in the VPN section of your OS), enter the credentials (you will usually need to do this only once, then your system remembers them, and connecting to the VPN is only a double click away)
Once you are connected to the VPN, you will be able to access netflix.com, and create an account there. Note that you will probably need to provide a fake address in the US (google is your friend), and of course, your real Credit Card number. Not that Netflix does not seem to check if your credit card is a foreign credit card or not. They also have an option to use Paypal, but it seems Paypal will check if your billing address is in the US, so you might get blocked there… it happened to me.
That’s it! Now that you have a Netflix account, you can enjoy it on your PC, or on your Tablet, as long as these are connected to the VPN. Note that you don’t need to be connected to the VPN constantly. Actually, you should only connect to it whenever you want to access IP restricted services such as Netflix. For regular web browsing, you should always prefer to use your “normal” internet connection. Since a VPN is an “intermediate” between you and the sites you access, it does add some latency to your internet connection (note that this added latency has never seemed to be a problem for me in Japan, but your experience may vary… this is where the 1 month free trial from Netflix will help you… even without that, both Netflix and boxpn subscriptions can be cancelled anytime)
Of course this technique allows you to access other IP-restricted services such as Hulu in the US. since a boxpn subscription gives you access to all of boxpn’s servers in various countries, this can also let you access other countries’s restricted services.
How about the PS3 or the Xbox 360?
The PS3 and the Xbox 360 do not have a “VPN” option in their network settings. Does this mean these devices can’t access Netflix from outside the US? Fear not, there is a solution, and it is relatively easy as well. The idea is simply to set up the VPN settings directly on your router rather than on the PS3 itself (this is, of course, assuming that your PS3 is connected to a Router). Not all routers have VPN settings either, but this can usually be bypassed by installing an improved firmware on the router.
I won’t go into details about this technique for now, but if you are interested, please let me know in the comments below.
There exist other techniques to access Netflix from outside of the US, such as DNS redirection. Sites such as unblock-us offer this, and this even works on the PS3 or the Xbox 360 without the need for a router. I haven’t tried it myself so I can’t vouch for it, but it is less guaranteed to work in the long run with services such as Netflix, as it uses a loophole in the way netflix works (Netflix only checks your IP when the movie starts, but not during the entire streaming session). Feel free to comment if you have ever used a DNS redirection service.