First Click: There’s no place like 127.0.0.1 when using Netflix abroad

August 3rd, 2015

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Planning a trip abroad this month? If so, have I got a tip for you.

As a reader of The Verge, I’m guessing you probably subscribe to at least one streaming video service. Probably Netflix or Hulu, or maybe even Amazon’s video service that comes bundled with your Prime membership. Great, on-demand streaming for a fixed monthly price is the future of media consumption. Problem is, the video services you subscribe to are locked to your home country’s borders by arcane copyright laws. Once you leave for vacation or a business trip, there’s a good chance you won’t have access to your curated playlists after you land.

netflix not available
If you’re traveling outside of the Americas, Western Europe, Australia, or New Zealand then — surprise — your Netflix subscription won’t work. And even when you are traveling within those areas the video catalogs will most likely differ by country. Fortunately, this is the internet: there’s always a workaround.

Paid services like UnblockusGetflix, and Media Hint get around geoblocking by tricking websites and internet services into thinking you’re still at home. Just follow their simple instructions to point laptops, tablets, and smartphones to your chosen service’s DNS servers. Presto, you can now stream all your favorite Netflix shows from Italy while regular Italians wait for the October launch.

Unlike VPNs, DNS proxy services won’t slow down your connection — they simply mask your location and then get out of the way so that you’re directly connected with the content you’re trying to stream. Only a small amount of data (your IP address and the sites you’re requesting) flows through their servers and you can always disable / re-enable it by editing your DNS settings.

Unblockus is perhaps the best known and most expensive of the lot at $4.99 per month. It’s also a service I can vouch for having used it since 2012. Getflix and Media Hint are cheaper versions with prices starting at $3.95. Savvy travelers will note that Unblockus and Media Hint both offer seven-day free trials while Getflix’s free trial lasts 14 days — none require a credit card to try.

"Free" IP proxy services also exist but you have to wonder what that means when it comes to dealing with your personal information (Unblockus, Getflix, and Media Hint all say they won't share your details). We all learned a valuable lesson from Hola, right?

Free or not, each DNS service places a heavy emphasis on masking your location to a US address because, let’s face it, that’s where the most popular TV and films are produced.

Of course, you can use DNS proxies anytime, not just while traveling. Countries have borders, the internet shouldn’t.

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