Charting a couple's move from London to Portugal, tales, adventures and moving advice


Watching UK TV in Portugal

Posted on July 03, 2013 by Ben Algarve

Watching UK TV in Portugal is a subject close to many expats hearts! Despite the sun, sea and sand, it seems many of us can’t quite break the habit of needing UK news, Question Time or, in our case, Eastenders.

Many expats have satellite dishes, with which to watch UK TV in Portugal. They tune into UK Freesat broadcasts or Sky TV, with questionable legality.

Unfortunately a shockwave was sent through the expat community when, late last year, it was revealed that imminent satellite replacements will probably result in the gradual loss of signal over the course of this year. Many people have already begun to lose channels, with Channel 5 disappearing first and many people losing ITV just recently.

UK TV in Portugal - EastEnders

UK TV in Portugal – EastEnders

As a result, many people are now turning to online services to watch their favourite programs, but you’re probably aware that the real sites, like 4OD and iPlayer are blocked if you try to access them from outside the UK. Other more….”shady” sites appear from time to time, but are usually quickly shut down.

There is a really simple and inexpensive answer, and I have it!

I don’t tend to advertise the fact that I’m an “IT guy.” When I make the mistake of doing so, people end up bringing me laptops to fix, often when I’m about to sit down to dinner. However, one of my recent jobs has been reviewing VPN services.

What a VPN service does, in very simple terms, is make your computer appear to be physically located in a different country. So if your computer appears to be in the UK, all of the TV websites are going to work with no problem at all.

VPNs allow access to locked content

VPNs allow access to locked content

Now, you’re probably wondering about the legality of this, and it’s fair to say it’s in a grey area. You definitely need a UK TV license to watch live BBC broadcasts – but maybe you still have a UK property and therefore HAVE a license. Advertising supports other channels, so it’s hard to imagine that they would mind more people viewing the ads, but I must say that, should you choose to use a VPN service it’s down to you to establish the legal side of things.

With that said, I’m happy to report that after laboriously reviewing MANY of these services, I’ve found one that I would happily recommend, known as Expat Telly. The reason I like it so much is that it keeps things really simple: if you can follow instructions, you will get it working. It also works on Windows and Mac computers as well as iPads and Android tablets.

You will find Expat Telly by clicking this link.

Best of all, an annual subscription costs roughly the same amount as subscribing to Sky for a month! So if you’re worrying about how to continue to watch UK TV in Portugal, look no further.

If your laptop and TV have HDMI its easy to watch UK TV in Portugal on the big screen

This is a personal recommendation based on a good trial of the service – and you needn’t huddle over your laptop to watch – all we’ve done is purchased an HDMI cable, which gives us full-screen viewing on our TV.

If you’ve had similar success with other ways of watching UK TV in Portugal, I’d be glad to hear about them in the comments box.

Image credits: Spencer Haltaway, Wikimedia Commons

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12 to “Watching UK TV in Portugal”

  1. saz says:

    :-) Cant believe you still watch Eastenders . . . we gave up about ten years ago when still no one in the square had invested in a washing machine. Mind you, like your ten things about Portugal blog, as we live in heart of the east end, I sometimes watch it for about 30 seconds to see just how wrong they are still portraying the area. Hope you enjoy the summer – it looks like we might be getting one in London this year – then again

  2. Fernando says:

    If you prefer to watch it on the tv set you still have some channels on regular cable companies like BBC World News, Sky News, BBC One, BBC Four and maybe others I don’t know. I used to have BBC Four and it was my favourite channel. I miss it sometimes.

  3. admin says:

    Hi Saz,

    Eastenders has been our weakness for many years, I have to confess! We don’t watch any other soaps, but can’t quite come to give that one up :-)

    Best wishes, Lou

  4. admin says:

    Hi Fernando,

    We get some of the English channels you mention through our cable package – as well as a variety of American channels. I tend to flick through every so often, but I always get sucked in by the cooking channel :-)

    Best wishes, Lou

  5. saz says:

    My fave cooking one (other than anything by Rick Stein) is Diners, Drive ins and Dives. Definitely not a good programme to watch if you are hungry. Saz

  6. Bruno Alves says:

    First I am not a worker or seller to Zon TV Cabo, just giving information here.

    In Portugal we do not have the custom of replacing languages, so most channels will broadcast the shows in their original languages, so what you´ll find is mostly subtitled, and mostly it will be spoken in english. Next I´ve put a link to the channels grid, the names of the channels in English will have mainly english speaken shows, Fox is jsut like the US Fox but for Portugal, BBC, Mov, Discovery etc, all english language and subtitled. Plenty of english language channels, and this is one of the reasons why usually we have very little problem understanding english.

    You can always go to a cafe and ask to see if the channel is in english, this should not be a problem.

  7. admin says:

    Diners, Drive Ins and Dives is one of our favourites too Saz! Great show :-)

  8. admin says:

    Thanks for the Zon information Bruno, that’s very helpful.

    I definitely agree that having so many films and programmes in English but with subtitles plays a big part in why so many Portuguese people speak English – you can’t help but pick bits of it up when exposed to so much of it!

    Subtitles help us to pick up Portuguese as well – when we are watching a film with Portuguese subtitles, we always learn a few words, even though the film is in English :-)

  9. Tristan Walker says:

    Hi all. Great article. I watch British TV via this site: Most English channels are there. This site is free and legal. Hope this helps! Enjoy the telly!

  10. Ron says:

    I have the added complication of being in a motorhome. I get my Iplayer fix using the Optimus Kanguru dongle on the Time+ prepaid tariff. For a VPN I use Tunnelbear, which is simple and cheap. I find the Optimus network to be the best, and usually better than the UK. It works out about a euro an hour, which is fine for what I need, although it can mount up if you watch 5 hours a day. Expats with an address can off course get contract rates, which is cheaper, and of course it’s not an issue if you have a fixed broadband line. In this case all you need is a good VPN. My solution is pretty much the best if you are a motorhomer like me.

  11. admin says:

    Thanks Ron,

    It’s interesting to hear how you have managed this while in a motorhome. I’ve used both Optimus Kanguru and Tunnelbear before now and I agree that both are really good products.

    One euro per hour sounds very reasonable and with as much sunshine as we have had recently I’m sure not many people will be indoors watching television :-)

    Best wishes, Lou

  12. Ken Westmoreland says:

    Bruno, the word you’re looking for is ‘dubbing’, not ‘replacing’. In Portugal, the attitude to dubbing is so different from Brazil, even the word in Portuguese for ‘dubbing’ is different – ‘dobragem’ instead of ‘dublagem’. Dubbing in Brazilian Portuguese isn’t that bad (it’s easier to understand than European Portuguese) but sometimes the jokes are lost – at least with subtitles you can preserve them.

    Also people want to watch the same TV channels as they do in the UK, just as Portuguese people in the UK want to watch the same channels as people in Portugal. BBC Entertainment is not a substitute for BBC One and Two, just as RTP Internacional is not a substitute for RTP1 and 2. At least SIC and TVI have international channels, unlike ITV and Channel 4.

    Fernando, Portuguese cable will carry BBC Entertainment, not BBC One, Two, Three or Four.

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