Fascinating things you probably didn’t know about time zones

You can set your watch by these facts – Getty

Which unlikely countries do we share a time zone with? Which world leader abolished time? Read on to find out.

1. Greenland is in the same time zone as Great Britain

Despite its location in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, between Iceland and Canada, a narrow strip of eastern Greenland – the Danmarkshavn weather station and a fraction of the surrounding Northeast Greenland National Park (the largest in the world) – uses GMT (also known as UTC or Coordinated Universal Time). It’s not your typical holiday destination. Danmarkshavn, where temperatures can drop to -40 degrees Celsius in winter, has only eight human inhabitants, and the only people who have regular access to the national park (excluding passing cruise ships) are whalers and sealers from the town of Ittoqqortoormiit. Leave it to the polar bears.

2. This also applies to Sao Tome and Principe

Fancy a holiday without turning the clock? A much better option would be Sao Tome and Principe, a little-known island paradise 230 kilometers off the coast of West Africa. The country only attracts 15,000 tourists a year – so you’ll certainly get bragging rights if you join their ranks – but there’s plenty to recommend it.

“Hovering just above the equator, the palm-lined, pearly beaches and emerald jungle slopes are as Arcadian and exotic as islands in the South Pacific that clash with the body clock,” says travel writer Sarah Marshall. “A short 35-minute flight connects the sister islands, where accommodations range from rustic cabins to luxury oceanfront lodges.”

3. The largest country in one time zone

Greenland, the world’s largest island (Australia is classified as a continent), uses four time zones to manage its 836,109 square miles. But China keeps it simple. It may have an area of ​​3,705,407 square kilometers, but ask any of its 1.4 billion residents the time and you’ll get the same answer (it’s GMT+8).

The same applies to India, which as a whole observes GMT +5.30.

4. Most time zones in one country

France takes over this title on a technical aspect. It is true that all of metropolitan France sticks to GMT +1. But once you add up all those overseas departments, the time zone increases to a remarkable 12. The sun never sets in France.

Russia and the US come in a close second. The world’s largest country by area spans 11 consecutive time zones (but has used only nine since 2011 – see below), from Kaliningrad Oblast (GMT+2) to Kamchatka, an essential component in any successful risk game (GMT+12) . The US also uses 11 (five on the North American mainland, the rest are island areas).

5. The fastest way to lose three and a half hours

A colossal drinking session? That wouldn’t be wise. So how about a quick hop across the border from Afghanistan to China? The two countries share a 47-mile border but are three and a half hours apart. Unfortunately, this is impossible. The State Department advises against all travel to Afghanistan, and the border, at the end of the Wakhan Corridor, has been closed for years.

The next best option? Pakistan and China share a border, which can be crossed at the Khunjerab Pass, and have a time difference of three hours. Please refer to the Foreign Office advice for Pakistan before considering travel.

6. Or win a whole day

The International Date Line roughly follows the 180° longitude, which bisects the Pacific Ocean. Fancy two birthdays in a row? Celebrate in Samoa (GMT +13). The next morning, take the 30-mile flight to neighboring American Samoa (GMT -11) and land again – 25 minutes later, after crossing the International Date Line – on your birthday. Travel the other way if you want to skip Christmas.

Go to Samoa to try your hand at time travelGo to Samoa to try your hand at time travel

Go to Samoa to try time travel – Getty

7. Save or not save

British Summer Time (BST) has been observed in Great Britain since 1916. Much of Europe and North America has its own version, daylight saving time (DST), but most of the world does not. That’s because as you get closer to the equator, the need for it disappears. This is perfectly illustrated by the fact that the southern half of Australia observes daylight saving time, but the northern half is not affected (Brazil once had a similar policy, but Jair Bolsonaro scrapped it in 2019).

8. When Putin abolished time

When Vladimir Putin wants something, he usually gets it – and that includes abolishing time. In 2011, he scrapped daylight saving time across the country, effectively wiping out two time zones, and in 2015, after annexing the region, he turned Crimea’s clocks forward two hours to align it with Moscow.

9. Hawaii and Alaska share a time zone

You can’t get two more contrasting destinations, one famous for its surfing and beaches, the other for its icy wilderness. But they have a few things in common. Volcanoes. And a time zone (but only for half the year, when Alaska observes daylight saving time).

10. Other curious couples

There are many other contrasting countries that share the same time zone. Kazakhstan and the Maldives (GMT+5). Belarus and Madagascar (GMT+3). Or how about Kamchatka and Tuvalu (GMT+12)?

11. Halves and quarters

Some countries are just out to confuse you. While most countries use time zones that are several full hours off GMT, other countries use 30-minute shifts. Such as India, parts of Australia, Sri Lanka, Newfoundland, Iran, Myanmar and North Korea. Even more curious, Nepal and New Zealand’s Chatham Islands use GMT+5:45 and GMT+12:45 respectively.

Nepal is taking a completely new approachNepal is taking a completely new approach

Nepal is taking a whole new approach – Getty

12. Those who can’t decide

Märket, an 8.2 hectare island in the Baltic Sea, is divided between Sweden and Finland – and therefore uses two time zones. But no one lives there, so who cares? More notable is Tuba City in the homeland of the Navajo Nation in Arizona. The Navajo observe daylight saving time, but Arizona does not. Result? For six months, half the city is one hour ahead of the rest.

13. The time at the South Pole

Longitudes converge at the poles, so neither North nor South have an official time zone. But those scientists have to set their watches for something. At the North Pole, research stations follow the times in their respective countries, but the US-operated Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station uses New Zealand time. Why? Because all flights to Antarctica’s McMurdo Station depart from Christchurch, meaning all official travel to and from the South Pole goes via New Zealand.

14. Time in space

The International Space Station follows GMT. Victory for Great Britain. Because when you’re orbiting the Earth, it just makes sense.

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