If there’s anything better than changing into sweatpants, squeezing yourself between the crisp, slightly cold sheets of your hotel bed, and plowing through a half-season of 90 Day Fiancé after a long-haul flight, I have yet to experience it.
That gloriously trashy TLC reality series is my guilty pleasure TV show of choice, and it’s just one of the literal thousands of TV shows and movies available on Hulu, the bright green-branded streaming service founded in 2007.
Chances are you have an account, too: Hulu passed the 28 million subscriber mark last spring, making it the third most popular video streaming service after YouTube and Netflix. If not, you’re seriously missing out: For as little as $5.99 a month, Hulu provides on-demand access to a stacked lineup that includes hit movies like Annihilation and Sorry to Bother You; cult-favorite shows like Rick and Morty and This Is Us; and exclusive Hulu originals like Shrill and The Handmaid’s Tale.
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Let’s go back to that hypothetical hotel room for a moment: You’ve booted up your laptop, logged into your Hulu account, and hit “play” on your go-to binge-watch. But instead of resuming the episode where you left off, you’re surprised with a blank screen and an error message. What’s the big idea?
The problem might have something to do with your current location. You see, unlike Netflix, which has expanded internationally, Hulu’s library is strictly limited to viewers in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and U.S. military bases. (It used to be available in Japan, too, but that branch of the company was acquired by the Tokyo-based Nippon TV network in 2014.) That’s because Hulu doesn’t own international streaming rights for any of its shows and movies; it only holds the U.S. distribution licenses. If Hulu were to expand the availability of its content abroad, it would have to make new deals with distributors to acquire streaming rights in other regions — and (spoiler!) that requires a lot of negotiating and money-spending.
On the bright side, there’s a chance Hulu will go global as soon as 2021 if Disney (its majority owner as of 2019) follows through with the expansion plans its chairman and CEO revealed during a recent earnings call with investors — more on that here. But until then, you’ll have to circumvent Hulu’s geo-restrictions with the help of something called a virtual private network, or VPN, if you want to stream its content abroad.
Why should you use a VPN with Hulu?
To prevent users outside the U.S. from accessing its shows and movies, Hulu requires two things of its accountholders: a U.S.-issued form of payment and a U.S. IP (internet protocol) address — that’s the numerical ID containing information about your location and web activity that gets assigned to your device by your internet search provider, or ISP, when you connect to a local network. (You can check yours here.) It’s like a house’s physical address, but for your computer/smartphone/tablet.
Here’s the thing: Hulu isn’t dumb.
That IP address part is where a VPN comes into play. For the uninitiated, a VPN is a service that creates a safe, secure connection over the internet by routing your device’s traffic through its own private servers. Known as encryption, this process shields your personal information and online activities from the prying eyes of your ISP and — this is key — creates a temporary IP address that hides your true location.
You can probably guess where I’m going with this: If you’re trying to watch Hulu on foreign soil, you can have a VPN spoof your IP address and trick Hulu into thinking you’re based in the U.S. Simple, right?
Actually, not so much. Because here’s the thing: Hulu isn’t dumb.
What’s the best VPN for Hulu?
Just like Netflix, Hulu prohibits its accountholders from using VPNs in an effort to protect its licensed content, and it’ll slap you with an error message if it thinks you’re trying to use one to watch its content. Its tactics are threefold:
Hulu blocks anonymous IP addresses whose geographical location it can’t verify
Hulu checks your IP address against its own blacklist of known VPN servers
Hulu keeps a lookout for IP addresses with a large number of users. If there are too many people sharing any given server, Hulu will assume you’re all using a VPN and shut that shit down.
If a VPN provider wants to unblock Hulu for its users, it needs to steer clear of Hulu’s blacklist while maintaining a sizeable U.S. server network. These are no easy feats, so the list of VPNs that can consistently bypass Hulu’s ferocious firewall is pretty darn short.
Need help sorting through your options? Just keep reading: Below, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of six VPN services that are currently capable of unblocking Hulu and keeping you anonymous online, wherever you may actually be. That way, you can make an informed decision on how to spend your hard-earned cash *and* click “Keep Watching” to your heart’s content during your next trip abroad.
30-day money-back guarantee • Support available 24/7 via live chat and email • Great blog that’s updated regularly • Decent amount of U.S. server locations • IP addresses are rotated regularly to keep Hulu unblocked • Supports up to five simultaneous connections • Kill switch • Split tunneling • Unlimited bandwidth
No ad blocker • Pricey • Limited cryptocurrency payment options • No free trial
Unrivaled for unblocking and streaming Hulu (or any activities that call for a VPN, really).
A top-tier triple threat of great security, speed, and support is this popular provider’s claim to fame.
$9.99/month (billed $59.95 every six months)
$8.32/month (billed $99.95 every 12 months)
Sometimes things that are expensive are worse, but not ExpressVPN. For a few dollars more each month than you would spend on another provider’s subscription, you can get the perfect blend of what we’re going to call the Three S’s of VPNs — security, speed, and support — on up to five devices at once.
As far as the first is concerned, ExpressVPN users can take advantage of a kill switch and ultra-strong AES 256-bit encryption to avoid being tracked online. Adding to that protection is the fact that ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands — a country without mandated data retention laws — and promises to uphold strict no-logging policy when it comes to both your activity and your connection.
In the speed department, ExpressVPN gives you the option of enabling a split tunneling tool that routes only some of your traffic through its private servers, which prevents bandwidth bottlenecks that might otherwise slow down your connection. What’s more, its huge global network of more than 3,000 servers features more than two dozen U.S. locations — meaning if you ever encounter a too-busy server while you’re trying to reach Hulu abroad, there will likely be others to choose from. (Pro tip: Use ExpressVPN’s built-in Speed Test feature to find the fastest server location for your network.)
And as for that last “S” (support): In addition to live chat and email assistance that’s available 24/7, ExpressVPN makes available to its users an active blog filled with how-to guides, troubleshooting tips, general security advice, and helpful, easy-to-understand infographics. It’s an excellent resource no matter your VPN skill level, and a big part of why we believe ExpressVPN is a solid choice not just for Hulu, but for all your VPN needs.
Oh, and one last thing: While ExpressVPN doesn’t offer dedicated (single-use) IP addresses or Hulu-specific servers, it promises to rotate all of its IP addresses regularly to increase its users’ anonymity and prevent Hulu from blocking its service.
In conclusion: Happy streaming, y’all.
For instructions on how to watch Hulu with ExpressVPN, click here.
Unlimited bandwidth • Part of its server network has been optimized for Hulu • Supports up to seven simultaneous connections • Kill switch • Gigantic server network with hundreds of U.S. locations • One-day free trial • Dedicated IP addresses available • 45-day money-back guarantee • 24/7 live support • Built-in ad blocker
Connecting to its servers can take a while • Limited cryptocurrency payment options • Partially based in a 14 Eyes country
A great choice for most light VPN users, but use that free trial first to make sure it’s right for you.
2. CyberGhost VPN
This budget-friendly provider with a sizable U.S. presence is one of the few VPNs to offer Hulu-optimized streaming servers.
$5.95/month (billed $71.40 every year)
$4.15/month (billed $99.60 every two years)
$2.99/month (billed $107.64 every three years)
A VPN will keep you anonymous while you’re watching Hulu, but no matter where you are, it *won’t* let you watch Hulu for free — you’ll still need a Hulu subscription.
If you’re not super thrilled about the idea of paying for a VPN on top of your $5.99-a-month Hulu plan, CyberGhost VPN is your pal: It lays claim to many of the same security features as premium providers like ExpressVPN — 256-bit encryption, unlimited bandwidth, an automatic kill switch, a no-logging policy — but costs as little as $3 a month with a multi-year plan.
CyberGhost is unique in that it maintains Hulu-optimized servers; when you connect to one of them, CyberGhost’s software automatically conceals your IP address and replaces it with one from its system that’s based in the U.S. (You can also add a dedicated Los Angeles IP address to your CyberGhost plan for $5 a month.) Its server network includes 844 American locations in 11 cities, so there’s a slim chance yours will be too crowded for streaming.
As great as CyberGhost seems up front, there are two reasons we highly recommend taking it for a test drive before you commit to a paid plan: Its apps are known to be slow to connect to its servers, for one thing. It’s also partially based in Germany, a member of an intelligence-sharing alliance (“the 14 Eyes“) in which the government can force companies under its authority to turn over customer data. You do have the option of signing up for a more expensive CyberGhost plan that includes its ultra-secure “NoSpy” servers, which are located at its data center in Romania (a non-14 Eyes country), but none of them are optimized for Hulu as far as we can tell.
Long story short: Make good use of CyberGhost’s one-day free trial and, if necessary, its 45-day money-back guarantee.
For instructions on how to watch Hulu with CyberGhost, click here.
31-day money-back guarantee • Unlimited bandwidth • Built-in ad blocker • Supports up to five simultaneous connections • Very geographically diverse server network with lots of U.S. locations • Split tunneling
Doesn’t support torrenting • Doesn’t support cryptocurrency payments • No free trial, but you can get a three-day “trial account” for $2.50 • Connection speeds can be slow
You might run into speed and/or privacy issues with this one, but at least you’ve got a solid customer support team on which to fall back.
This self-managed provider offers highly reviewed 24/7/365 customer support with lightning-quick response times.
No matter which VPN you subscribe to, your connection probably won’t work perfectly everywhere and every time. That’s why it’s so important to choose a provider with a reputation for excellent customer service. Enter: PureVPN.
Based in Hong Kong, this 14-year-old provider has the highest TrustPilot score out of any VPN we’ve come across, boasting a 4.8/5-star rating with more than 9,200 reviews. Its specialists offer 24/7/365 assistance via live chat, support ticket, and email — and according to the VPN review site BestVPN.co, its average response time for the latter clocks in at just under 40 minutes.
PureVPN operates a self-managed network of more than 2,000 servers in over 140 countries, including more than 650 in the United States. No matter which one you connect to, you’ll enjoy split tunneling, a kill switch, 256-bit encryption, a built-in ad blocker, and DNS and IPv6 leak protection. Unfortunately, that suite of tools comes at a price: PureVPN’s connection speeds are known to be a little on the slow side.
For instructions on how to watch Hulu with PureVPN, click here.
Unlimited bandwidth • Ad blocker included • Supports cryptocurrency payments • 30-day money-back guarantee • Split tunneling • 24/7 live chat support • Kill switch
There’s a free seven-day trial, but only for iOS and Android • Small server network, so you’ll probably experience some slow connections
Unlimited simultaneous connections. That’s it. That’s the tweet.
This budget-friendly provider is unique in that it offers unlimited simultaneous connections on all of your devices.
$5.99/month (billed $71.88 every 12 months)
$1.99/month with code surfsharkdeal (billed $47.76 every 24 months)
A mere year after its debut, Surfshark has made waves in the VPN world with affordable subscriptions, above-average customer support, and a well-rounded suite of security features that includes a kill switch, double encryption, and a private DNS and leak protection. (And unlike ExpressVPN, our No. 1 pick, it even includes a built-in ad blocker.)
But the main reason why Surfshark is on this list is that it’s the only decent Hulu-unblocking provider offering unlimited simultaneous connections across all sorts of devices, including Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Linux, FireTV, and browsers like Chrome and Firefox. For families, roommates, and other types of shared households with lots of different TV tastes, it should be a go-to.
The biggest drawback to using Surfshark is its small server network: There are just over 1,000 of them in about four dozen countries, and that relatively low number means you’ve got a pretty good chance of encountering sluggish servers. On the plus side, every single one of its servers can bypass Hulu’s VPN ban — or so the company claims, at least. (For the best chance of unblocking the streaming service, we recommend connecting to one of its twenty-something U.S. locations.)
For instructions on how to watch Hulu with Surfshark, click here.
30-day money-back guarantee • Built-in ad blocker • Supports up to six simultaneous connections • Enormous U.S. server network • Dedicated IP addresses available • Supports cryptocurrency payments • Sleek and very user-friendly app • Robust customer support presence with email and live chat options • Unlimited bandwidth • Kill switch
No free trial • Doesn’t support split tunneling • 2018 security breach might be a cause for concern
If you’re not turned off by reports of its 2018 security snafu, you can look forward to an uninterrupted streaming experience with NordVPN.
A major player in the VPN space, NordVPN offers enough U.S. servers to virtually guarantee a fast connection — but recent headlines may dissuade potential users.
$6.99/month (billed $83.88 every year)
$4.99/month (billed $119.76 every two years)
$3.49/month (billed $125.64 every three years)
You want U.S. servers? NordVPN‘s got plenty: Out of its 5,500-server global network, nearly 1,600 of them are based in the States, and none of them are virtual (i.e., they’re actually, physically located where they claim to be). In other words, watching Hulu with NordVPN means never having to worry about running into connection-crippling bottlenecks that can happen when a shared server tries to accommodate too many users at once.
If you’re really, really worried about having your IP address flagged by Hulu, know that NordVPN also gives its users the option of adding a dedicated/single-use IP address to their plans. (That’ll run you an extra $70 per year.)
On the security front, NordVPN does its very best to quell your privacy concern with double VPN encryption, DNS leak protection, an automatic kill switch, a built-in ad/suspicious website blocker, and an option to route your traffic through the Onion network with every plan. Moreover, its Panama headquarters affords you a viewing experience free of mandatory data retention laws and outside the jurisdiction of the 14 Eyes alliance, and there’s a strict “no-logging” policy that applies to all of its users’ online activities.
Along those same lines, we can’t *not* mention NordVPN’s reported security breach in March 2018, when a hacker exploited an insecure remote management system at a Finnish data center from which the company was renting servers. The company has since doubled down on its commitment to user privacy by undergoing several audits, and we still think it’s a strong contender in the VPN space. (You can .) But if you’re hesitant about committing to one of its plans, you’re covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee if you decide it’s not for you.
For instructions on how to watch Hulu with NordVPN, click here.
30-day money-back guarantee • Free seven-day trial • Clean, intuitive app • Supports up to six simultaneous connections • Kill switch • Unlimited bandwidth
No split tunneling • Limited cryptocurrency payment options • Based in a 14 Eyes country • Claims to offer live chat support, but we couldn’t find it on the website • Small server network • No ad blocker
Probably not powerful enough for very frequent Hulu streamers, but it’s a good way to familiarize oneself with VPN technology.
New to VPNs? You should sign up for PrivateVPN’s free weeklong trial even if you don’t think it’s the right provider for your needs — it’s an easy way to get yourself up to speed with the technology.
$7.50/month (billed $22.50 every three months)
$6/month (billed $72 every 12 months)
None of the VPNs on this list are particularly tricky to install and run — we wouldn’t be recommending them if they were — but reviews indicate that PrivateVPN is especially easy to use, even if one has no prior experience with VPNs.
Sporting a simple, aquamarine design and uncomplicated language, PrivateVPN’s app features a handful of built-in privacy tools like 256-bit encryption and a “connection guard.” (That what it calls its kill switch.) Equally user-friendly is PrivateVPN’s support website, which includes a thorough on how to unblock Hulu (among other how-tos) and a detailed FAQ section.
From our perspective, there are two downsides to using PrivateVPN to unblock Hulu, the first being its teensy server network: It maintains a mere 14 U.S. locations, and only a pair of them are dedicated Hulu servers. (You do get unlimited server switching with PrivateVPN, but it’s hard to make good use of that feature with just a handful of servers.)
Secondly, the fact that PrivateVPN is based in Sweden (a 14 Eyes country) means there’s always a chance it could be forced to cough up user data — although if the company follows through with its promise to uphold a strict no-logging policy, this should be a non-issue. Hypothetically.
If you have any lingering concerns about PrivateVPN, be sure to take advantage of its free seven-day trial before committing to a paid plan. (We’ll give it some props there: That’s one of the longest free trials of any VPN provider we’ve encountered.)
For instructions on how to watch Hulu with PrivateVPN, click here.