For Germans abroad, there’s simply no replacing ARD; that’s why it’s handy to install VPN onto your device so you can stream it abroad. All you need is to ensure that your chosen provider is up to the task of beating geoblocks while retaining good Internet speeds. We cover what you need to know in today’s guide.
The German broadcaster ARD is the world’s second largest public broadcasting service. The network was founded nearly 70 years ago and has operated throughout Germany and central Europe ever since, showing everything from live sports to children’s programming, documentaries, and even radio programs. ARD operates its television network under the name Das Erste (The First) to help differentiate it from ZDF (The Second).
Although ARD is well-known in Germany, the minute you cross the border you could find your connection to the broadcasting service unavailable. This is because ARD only allows streaming content from inside Germany. Even if you’re from the country but are traveling abroad, you won’t have access to all the content ARD offers.
ARD is blocked outside of Germany and a handful of other countries, but you can restore access from abroad with these VPNs:
- NordVPN – Best for ARD – NordVPN is a favorite provider of Germans abroad, as it offers the most reliable access to the geo-restricted comforts of home like ARD. Spoof a German IP, and enjoy streaming content securely courtesy of NordLynx encryption.
- Surfshark – An affordable provider with extremely competent site-unblocking provisions like obfuscation and smart DNS.
- ExpressVPN – Easily the fastest VPN overall. Unblock buffer-free ARD streams outside Germany with Lightway encryption.
- CyberGhost – The best choice for people who only want to give simple commands like “unblock streaming” and have it just work.
- PrivateVPN – A smart bet for power users who enjoy customizing their encryption settings for the task at hand.
- PureVPN – Securely spoof into Germany, or any of over 140 countries around the world.
Fortunately, all hope is not lost. With a good VPN in place you can bypass the frustrating “Leider kannst du dir das aktuelle Video nur anschauen, wenn du in Deutschland bist” message announcing your connection has been blocked. All you need is a few minutes to pick the right service, then you’re ready to watch ARD from anywhere in the world.
Getting the Best VPN for ARD
Most Important VPN Features
There’s a lot of information to pick through and research regarding VPNs. Finding the right balance between speed and security is important, as if your service sacrifices one for the other, you may find your ARD streaming less than ideal. Below are the top criteria you should consider when looking for a strong VPN.
- Device support – To use your VPN, you have to run an app on your device. Make sure your chosen provider supports your device before you sign up.
- Fast downloads – VPNs can be slower than an unencrypted internet connection. Fortunately, good services compensate for this, allowing for fast downloads and smooth streaming.
- Network distribution – The more servers a VPN runs, the more options at your disposal. For ARD streams, it also must have locations inside Germany.
- Zero-logging policy – Make sure your service has a strict zero-logging policy.
Avoid Using Free VPNs with ARD
While it’s certainly possible to use a free VPN service to stream ARD, we highly recommend against it. Free VPNs are on every app marketplace and extension store, and the truth is they often do more harm than good.
No-charge VPNs don’t make money from their users. In order to make a profit, they usually resort to collecting and selling user data, violating your privacy as soon as you log on. This means a free VPN may be tracking and sharing your browser, streaming, and downloading history with outside companies without your knowledge.
Free VPNs also come with a lot of restrictions. Many have strict bandwidth caps in place, block P2P or torrent traffic, restrict your server switches to a few per day, or are just incredibly slow. The best VPNs are low-cost services that go out of their way to provide a fast and secure experience for their users without violating their privacy.
Top 6 Best VPNs for ARD
Want some suggestions for the best VPNs to use with ARD? We’ve got six of the top services below, each featuring fast and secure servers in Germany and across the world, ready to deliver incredible streaming speeds and top notch privacy.
NordVPN collects some of the best features offered by any VPN and provides full access to them at an affordable price. By far the most unique of these features is the company’s massive server network. The list is constantly growing, but at the time of writing users can connect to over 5,500 servers in 59 different countries. You’ll always be able to connect to a fast server with NordVPN, and you’ll get access to extra protection through double encryption, location obfuscation, and anti-DDoS servers, as well. Needless to say, it is an extremely effective solution for unblocking ARD outside of Germany.
NordVPN provides a zero-logging policy that covers everything from bandwidth to time stamps, traffic to IP addresses. Your activity is never recorded or shared with third parties, guaranteed. Backing these features is 256-bit AES encryption on all data, an automatic kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a host of customizable encryption features.
This provider operates over 2,600 servers in Europe with an impressive 292 located inside Germany. This, combined with the company’s impressive speed test scores, makes it the best choice for ARD.
Read our full NordVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime and other streaming services
- 5,400+ servers globally
- 2,048-bit SSL keys and DNS leak protection
- “Double” data protection
- Money back guarantee policy (30-days).
- Some servers can be unreliable
- Sometimes slow in procesing refunds (but always do).
The newest VPN on our list by a stretch, Surfshark has fast established itself as one of the very best providers for accessing geoblocked content. Since 2019, they’ve cultivated an amazing and constantly-growing network of over 3200 servers in 65 countries. Germany holds a particularly prominent position within this network, with numerous options for static IPs and multi-hop connections in addition to standard German servers.
Of course, there is nothing “standard” about a Surfshark server; each is protected by unbreakable 256-AES-GCM encryption, and can optionally activate Camouflage obfuscation and smart DNS to help spoof past persistent VPN blockers like those used by Netflix. You shouldn’t need this for unblocking ARD, but you wouldn’t notice even if you did–your VPN app activates it automatically, behind the scenes.
Rounding out this exceptional new provider is a solid no-logging policy. Surfshark’s network is also based on RAM-only infrastructure, which continuously wipes its memory of any trace of your activity for total anonymity.
- Unblock 15 international Netflix libraries, including the US and Japan
- Unblock Netflix on any server, no more picking and choosing
- Unbreakable AES-256-GCM encryption on every connection
- VPN home jurisdiction in British Virgin Islands is ideal for privacy
- 24/7 live chat ensures maximum uptime.
- Overall, not much to complain about
- Power users may wish for more settings to fiddle with.
Read our full Surfshark review.
ExpressVPN has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the fastest and most secure VPNs around. It provides these features without sacrificing usability, too, as its apps are lightweight and incredibly intuitive, even on mobile devices. ExpressVPN currently runs a network of over 3,000 servers in 94 countries around the globe, each delivering fast connection speeds for incredible HD video streams. You can finally watch secure ARD from any device without staring at buffer screens for minutes at a time.
ExpressVPN’s privacy features are always at work to keep you safe online. Data is protected with 256-bit AES encryption and backed by a zero-logging policy on traffic, DNS requests, and IP addresses. DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch also deliver a reliable safety net in case of an accidental disconnect or other internet issue.
Their server network spans the globe, but it’s also perfect for ARD streaming. Four unique locations in the country provide all of ExpressVPN’s fantastic features, giving you all the tools you need for a fast and secure video experience.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocks Netflix and other streaming sites
- Super fast servers (minimal speed loss)
- Torrenting allowed
- Strict no-logs policy for personal information
- 24/7 Live Chat.
- Slightly pricier than competition.
CyberGhost is one of the fastest and most reliable VPNs on the market, and it’s growing at a rapid pace, as well. The VPN delivers incredible speeds around the world thanks to a huge server network of over 5,900 nodes in 90 different countries. No buffering delays or internet slowdown, just fast connections to any device accessible with a single click.
Foundational privacy features like 256-bit AES encryption on all data, a zero-logging policy on traffic, time stamps, and IP address, and both DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch hide your identity each time you go online. This allows you to connect with fully encrypted data no matter where you travel.
CyberGhost’s network is ideal for anyone who wants to watch ARD online. The company is based in Germany and has a staggering 672 servers located within the country, making it one of the best VPNs to use for streaming German programming abroad.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
- LOW PRICE: 6 EXTRA free months (79% off - link below)
- Affordable plans
- 7 simultaneous connections
- No log files
- Money-back guarantee.
- Sometimes experiencing average speeds.
PrivateVPN has one of the most balanced services around. The company delivers a superb mix of speed and security without sacrificing either, allowing you to stay safe while streaming HD content from ARD or any other video service. PrivateVPN accomplishes this with some sleek and lightweight software, as well, making it easily accessible from a variety of devices, including Android and iOS smartphones and desktop PCs.
PrivateVPN runs a small but dedicated network of around 150 servers in 60+ different countries, enough to deliver speed, and location variety regardless of your location. PrivateVPN locks down data all data passing through this network with 256-bit AES encryption, and it keeps your connection safe with an automatic kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a zero logging policy on traffic.
This provider’s network offers multiple servers within Germany, making it a solid choice for streaming ARD in complete privacy.
PureVPN is more than just a VPN service. The company delivers an inclusive, all-in-one security suite for its users, allowing you to stay safe from a wide variety of dangers without lifting a finger. With PureVPN, you’ll have anti-virus protection, malware shields, app blocking features, and DNS website filtering, all in the same package. Just download the software, turn on the extra features, and you’re safe.
PureVPN provides lots of handy privacy features on top of its unique offerings, as well. It all begins with a zero-logging policy on traffic and continues with an automatic kill switch, 256-bit AES encryption on all data, and DNS leak protection. These features work together to keep your data secure no matter what. And with PureVPN’s self-owned network of 2,000+ servers in 140+ different countries, you’re guaranteed a fast connection at all times, as well.
This provider in particular has a strong presence throughout Europe. You’ll find over 200 servers in Germany, including Frankfurt Munich, Nuremberg, Berlin, and Hessen, making it a fantastic choice for streaming ARD programs night and day.
Read our full PureVPN review.
How to Use a VPN to Unblock ARD
It doesn’t take too long to research and sign up for a reliable VPN. Once you’ve done that, you’re only a few steps away from watching ARD anywhere in the world. Follow the guide below to turn on your VPN and access all of ARD’s online content, from sports to kids’ shows, all for free.
Step 1 – Set Up Your VPN
Pick one of our recommended VPN services from the sections above. Any one will do the job, as they’re all fast, secure, and affordable, it just depends on your preferences and location. Next, go through the steps below to get the app and deploy your VPN.
- Sign into your VPN and download the app for your device. Mobile users may need to install it from the iOS or Android app store.
- Install the VPN app, launch it on your device, then enter your login credentials.
- Open the server list and choose one located inside Germany.
- Connect to the server and give the VPN a few moments to resolve.
- Minimize the VPN or simply let it run in the background.
Step 2 – Verify Your IP
As soon as you connect, it’s a good idea to verify your IP address to make sure everything is ready to go. This is an optional step, but it only takes a second to complete. It’s a good idea to run through the steps if this is your first time using a VPN, or if you switched to a new service and aren’t sure if it’s working correctly.
- Make sure your VPN is active and connected to a server. It doesn’t have to be one in Germany, though you should make a note of the location before continuing.
- Open a web browser and go to ipleak.net.
- Wait for the page to load and run an IP address lookup.
- Look at the box at the top beneath “Your IP address”. If it shows a country other than the one you’re currently sitting in, the VPN is active and working correctly.
- If the box shows your physical location, you may need to check with your VPN provider to resolve an IP leak error, or simply reinstall the app and run the test again.
Step 3 – Start Watching ARD
With a VPN set up and correctly configured, you’re ready to go. ARD doesn’t impose any strict blockades against VPN traffic, which makes it one of the easiest networks to watch online. No account is required, just a VPN connected to a German server running in the background.
Follow the steps below to watch ARD on any device via web browser:
- Make sure your VPN is connected to a German server by following the steps above.
- Open a web browser and visit the ARD home page at https://www.ARD.de
- Choose a video section from the menu at the top, including Sport or Kinder.
- Select a show or stream to watch, then click Play to load it.
- Enjoy all the free and unblocked ARD videos you want.
Extra – Stream via ARD’s Mobile Apps
ARD also offers video streaming through dedicated mobile apps. The ecosystem is a little confusing to navigate, so it’s generally better to stick with the website for streams. However, it is possible to stream ARD content on Android and iOS using these apps. Follow the steps below to give it a try.
- Make sure your mobile VPN is connected to a German server by following the guidelines above.
- Go to your device’s app store and search for ARD. You should see at least three apps: ARD from ARD.de, Das Erste from Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen, and ZDFmediathek & Live TV from ZDFonline. All of these are part of ARD, and they all offer different selections of programming to watch.
- Choose one of the apps from the marketplace and install it. You can also install multiple apps if you want more options.
- Launch the app and find a video or live stream to watch.
- Click the Play button and enjoy.
RELATED READING: How To Unblock ZDF Abroad
ARD is a powerhouse of broadcasting. It operates several popular network channels and streams a huge variety of content online and through cable TV. By using the right VPN service you can access ARD on the internet from anywhere in the world, no need to stare at error messages because you aren’t sitting in Germany.
Have you been abroad and missed the great programming from ARD? What will you catch up on when you reconnect with a VPN? Tell us about your preferences below.
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. NordVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.