Escape to an Island in the Sun

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Free TV for Expats with Smart DNS

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Over the years, I have often been asked to “test our new TV box” by the latest start up business anxious to gain a foothold in the expat market. From the convenience point of view, such schemes may well suit some people. However, having tested several such devices in the past, I have always refused to recommend any of them, since I firmly believe that the monthly charge and unreliability issues that are often associated with such devices are something that a newly arrived expat can well do without. Nowadays, there are cheaper and more effective ways of achieving the same result.

I continue to recommend that expats who are anxious to continue viewing British television overseas purchase an Amazon Fire TV stick or box, Apple TV (latest version) or a Google Chromecast device (usually available for around 40 euros). It is also easy to set up a laptop computer, tablet device or mobile phone to do much the same job, in conjunction with a system called
Smart DNS, which are perfectly capable of beaming all of your favourite British television programmes to your TV, wherever you are in the world. This article offers further information about Smart DNS, which some expats may find helpful.
As a newly arrived or intending expat, you will be given many pieces of advice; some will be useful, whilst it is best to ignore others. The best piece of advice is, of course, to learn the language, because by doing so you will add a new depth and valuable dimension to your new life in the sun. The second piece of advice that I often hear is to only watch TV and listen to radio in the language of your adopted country. In other words, forget 'Eastenders' and 'Strictly Come Dancing', in favour of some of the endless quiz and reality shows on Spanish television; I think not. I have come to the opinion that to remain in touch with the language and culture of birth is important, which helps to ease some of the lonelier and unsettling aspects of expat life, even if the sun is shining. So, in order to continue to enjoy watching 'Eastenders' and 'Strictly', as well as films in your home language, it is important to be able to watch television from your home country.

One of the most frequent questions that I am asked by both would be and newly arrived expats is "Will I still be able to watch British television?" The answer is "Yes, of course you will, and things are getting better all the time." However, you do need to be a little tech savvy and have a little patience to ensure that you are getting the best connection, and that doesn't necessarily mean spending a great deal of money on monthly TV contracts.

When we first moved to Spain, the choice was either installing a large and expensive satellite dish, or having a baking tray kind of contraption strapped to the highest point of the building. Both systems worked, but were not always reliable, since providers and connections changed and, indeed, satellites moved to other positions, which required adjustments, upgrades and yet more expense. Over the last few years, things have moved on, and it is now perfectly possible to receive a good television signal from your Internet connection; indeed, it is now the preferred choice for many reasons.
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Watching television through your Internet connection doesn't mean sitting in front of your laptop all evening. We now have the option of purchasing Internet ready TVs, although my own personal preference is using a computer (in my case a Mac Mini) linked specifically to our main television for only Internet television and film viewing.

Of course, television programmes from the UK and other countries are blocked, to prevent them from being watched in other countries. However, there are many ways around this. Until recently, my preferred option has been the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which basically tricks the television provider into thinking that you are in your home country. The signal is diverted to your home country and then forwarded back to the sender. Clearly, the downside of this process is that VPN reduces your signal by around 30 per cent, reducing picture quality or producing that maddening buffering, and spinning 'circle of death' that we all hate so much. In many parts of the Canary Islands where I live, and rural Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, Internet signals are very slow offering maybe only 3 to 10mbps. I am fortunate, since I now have a fibre optic connection, which offers a speed of around 300mbps. Even so, I managed to get a decent signal on a speed of only 10mbps. It is important to shop around and obtain the highest speed possible. If you can afford it, dump the modem and router provided by your telecoms provider, since most are of the most basic quality and purchase the best, high-speed version modem/router that you can afford. It will be worth it in the long run, since speed is the key to success.

My much-preferred option now is Smart DNS from a company called also called
Smart DNS, which is simply a case of changing the DNS numbers on your computer or router. It sounds complicated, but isn't and full and clear details of how to do this are given by Smart DNS. Smart DNS has the advantage of maintaining the full strength of your signal, which in areas with low Internet signal strength is highly important, but has the disadvantage of not being secure in the same way as a VPN. My best advice is to get both, and then you can use Smart DNS to receive television programmes, access films etc., whilst using VPN for security and to hide your presence if, for instance, you are using your laptop in an Internet cafe to access your bank account.

Over the years, I have tried several companies for both Smart DNS and
VPN, but I am very impressed with the price of packages and support that Smart DNS has to offer. The clarity of their instructions for setting up both VPN and Smart DNS for use on iPhones and Android devices, as well as setting routers, Apple TV and Amazon Fire is commendable.

Anyway, give it a try. You can try
Smart DNS for 14 days free of charge!

© Barrie Mahoney

Please note: Netflix, BBC iPlayer and others continually attempt to block viewers from watching their programmes from overseas locations. In most cases, Smart DNS services can overcome this successfully. However, there may be periods when these programmes will be blocked again, usually for short periods. It is an endless game of 'cat and mouse'…
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: and or read his latest book, ‘Footprints in the Sand’ (ISBN: 9780995602717). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle editions. Protection Status © Barrie Mahoney