Best Streaming Services Travelers

What’s the Best Streaming Service for Travelers?

  by Patricia Rey MallénNo Comments


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Many things can ruin a travel day, from a missed flight to a lost suitcase, terrible weather to an awful meal. Sometimes, all you want to do is curl up and take your mind off your problems, losing yourself in the parallel universe of a funny movie or favourite show.

Streaming services have made our life a lot easier when it comes to taking entertainment on the road… or have they? Thanks to both geographic and technical restrictions, it’s not always obvious which of the major providers is the best to bring along on your trip. We decided to take the guesswork out of the process for you.

Netflix iPad plane

Netflix

Availability

After its last expansion, Netflix is now available in 190 countries, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find somewhere it hasn’t yet reached.

Can It Be Used In Countries Other than Your Own?

In short: yes.

This is one of the best additions to recent versions of Netflix, but it wasn’t always the case. Back in the day, your Netflix account was only good in your home country. If you had a US Netflix account, for instance, it was only accessible within the United States.

If you wanted to use the service abroad, you had to sign up for another account in your new country (permanent or temporary). Even VPNs, as explained below, were out of the question.

Thankfully this is no longer the case, and your account is now accessible all over the world, no matter where you are, or where you signed up. Keep in mind, though, that due to licensing restrictions, the range of shows and movies available may not be the same as at home.

Are VPNs Blocked?

Yes. If you try to use a commercial VPN with Netflix to make it seem like you’re in a different country, the service will most likely be blocked. Netflix will give a proxy error message, accompanied by error code m7111-1331-5059.

VPN companies sometimes claim to have a way to bypass it, either by using a specific server, or by contacting customer service for a fix, but these constantly change as Netflix blocks them one by one. It ends up becoming a frustrating cat-and-mouse game, so proceed at your own risk.

Quality of Image & Sound

Available in standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD), depending on the plan you sign up for. If sound is too low to hear over the noise of the city or nearby roosters, try Jim’s advice on how to crank things up a little (or a lot).

Streaming Library & Flagship Shows

Netflix’s US library reportedly has 5,000 shows and movies to choose from. Those are hard numbers to beat.

Ever since taking the plunge on producing its own content in 2013, Netflix has been putting out some truly unforgettable shows. Stranger Things, Narcos, and American Vandal were three of the most binge-watched shows of 2017, and House of Cards and Orange is the New Black remain beloved masterpieces.

Price

Basic plan: $7.99 per month

Standard plan: $10.99 per month (SD, simultaneous viewing on two devices)

Premium plan: $11.99 per month (HD, simultaneous viewing on four devices)

Amazon

Amazon Prime Video

Availability

Prime Video is available in over 200 countries and territories.

Can It Be Used In Countries Other Than Your Own?

Yes. Your Amazon Prime Video account, no matter which country it’s from, will continue to work regardless of where you access it from. However, just as with Netflix, the catalog may be limited depending on which country you’re in.

Are VPNs Blocked?

No, Prime Video will not be blocked with most VPNs, so you should be able to use one to access the full library from your home country. No need to stop your bingeing while you are on vacation due to geographic limitations!

Quality of Sound/Image

Prime Video supports up to 1920x1080p HD, and automatically adjusts the quality of image to the connection speed. 4K/Ultra HD isn’t available.

Streaming Library & Flagship Shows

Prime Video has been putting out some excellent content since it launched, like the trailblazing and much-praised Transparent, or irreverent Mozart in the Jungle.

Price

Amazon Prime Video is included for Amazon Prime subscribers in the US, Canada, UK, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, and India.

If you don’t have a Prime subscription, you’ll pay $2.99 per month for the first six months, and $7.99 per month after that.

Netflix in Bed

YouTube Red

Availability

YouTube Red is available in the US, Mexico, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

Can It Be Used In Countries Other Than Your Own?

Yes, provided that YouTube is available in that country.

If it isn’t, YouTube Red lets you save videos to watch offline for 30 days. These can be watched anywhere, including countries where the service isn’t available.

Are VPNs Blocked?

No, just like Amazon Prime Video, YouTube Red won’t be blocked if you’re using a VPN, at least for now.

Quality of Image

Up to 1080p HD.

Streaming Library & Flagship Shows

YouTube Red is a recent addition to the streaming content landscape, and its content is still relatively light compared to its more-established competitors. Its first original shows launched in February 2016, including some produced by well-known news site Buzzfeed, and some famous YouTubers.

Price

Membership: $9.99 per month. This will remove ads from all videos, as well as give you access to original content.

Membership is linked to Google Play. This means Google Play subscribers automatically get a YouTube Red subscription, and canceling one will instantly cancel the other.

Streaming Services for Travel

Hulu

Availability

Hulu is only available in just two countries, the US and Japan. There are reported plans to expand the service, but Hulu is currently keeping them under wraps.

Can It Be Used In Countries Other than Your Own?

No. Hulu only works in the countries where it is available (with the exception of US military bases abroad, where it also works).

Are VPNs Blocked?

Yes. Just like Netflix, Hulu blocks all VPNs. And just like Netflix, there are VPNs that claim they can take you there anyway. They’ve got the same issues as with Netflix, so again, don’t expect any particular VPN to keep working forever.

Quality of Sound/Image

720p HD, 1080p HD, and 4K Ultra HD are all available.

Streaming Library & Flagship Shows

Hulu started producing its first shows in 2011, but didn’t make headlines until last year when it picked up an Emmy award for the mesmerizing-if-disturbing The Handmaid’s Tale.

Price

Streaming library: $7.99 per month

Streaming library + Live TV: $39.99 per month

No ads: + $4 per month

Unlimited screens: +$14.99 per month

Enhanced Cloud DVR: + $14.99 per month

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So, Which One Should You Go With?

No question about it, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are the obvious choices here. Both services have wide availability, allow you to access your account outside of your country of residence, and have a large selection of shows and movies to keep you entertained no matter how long your trip.

Now, which of the two you go with depends a little on your personal situation. Do you live in one of the countries that include Prime Video with Amazon Prime membership? Are you traveling to countries where you need to use a VPN all the time (which is something we recommend you do wherever you go anyway)? Are you a House of Cards fan, or more of a Mozart in the Jungle kind of person? It’s your pick, but you’re bound to be satisfied either way.

As for Hulu or YouTube Red, their usefulness for travelers is pretty limited. Hulu’s very-restricted availability makes it interesting only if you are going to be in the US or Japan for an extended period of time (as in, opening-a-bank-account-there period of time), while YouTube Red is still too much of a toddler to show real promise.

Images via Jason Rogers (watching in bed), Netflix (feature image, tablet in plane, watching in cafe), Amazon (camera and laptop).

About the Author
Patricia Rey Mallén

Patricia Rey Mallén

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A roaming writer and tech enthusiast, Patricia has been wandering the globe for 10-odd years. A passionate Apple lover, she is familiar with Genius bars from Sydney to Reykjavík to Mexico City. She only vaguely remembers life before the Internet, but will forever long for the days in which mobile phone batteries lasted for over a week.

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