Interesting things you probably didn’t know about time zones

You can set your watch by these facts – Getty

Which countries are unlikely to share a time zone with? Which world leader ended time? Read on to find out.

1. Greenland is in the same time zone as Britain

Despite its location in the middle of the North Atlantic, between Iceland and Canada, a narrow slither of eastern Greenland – the Danmarkshavn weather station and part of the surrounding Northeast Greenland National Park (the largest in the world) – use GMT (on also known as UTC or Coordinated Universal Time). It’s not your average holiday destination. There are only eight human residents at Danmarkshavn, where temperatures can drop to -40C in winter, and the only people who regularly access the national park (cruise ships excluded) are whalers and fishermen from the town of Ittoqqortoormiit. Leave it to the polar bears.

2. So is Sao Tome and Principe

Do you want a holiday without the clocks turning? A much better choice would be Sao Tome and Principe, a little known island paradise 140 miles off the coast of West Africa. The country only gets 15,000 tourists a year – so you’ll definitely have bragging rights if you join them – but there’s plenty to admire.

“Hovering just above the equator, its pearlescent palm-fringed beaches and emerald jungle slopes are as Arcadian and exotic as the body-clock-stricken islands of the South Pacific,” says travel writer Sarah Marshall. “A short 35-minute flight connects the sister islands, where stays range from rustic cabins to luxury seaside 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 administer its 836,109 square miles. But China keeps it simple. It may have an area of ​​3,705,407 square miles, but ask any of its 1.4 billion residents right now and you’ll get the same answer (it’s GMT+8).

The same is true for India, which sees the whole GMT +5.30.

4. The biggest time zones in one country

France takes this title on a technical basis. It is true that all of Metropolitan France adheres to GMT +1. But when you’ve added all those overseas departments the time zone total rises to a whopping 12. The sun never sets on France.

Russia and the United States come a close second. The world’s largest country by area covers 11 consecutive time zones (but since 2011 only nine have been used – see below), from Kaliningrad Oblast (GMT+2) to Kamchatka, a vital component in any successful game of Risk (GMT +12). . The US also uses 11 (five on the North American mainland, the rest consisting of island territories).

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

A massive drinking session? That would not be wise. So how about a quick hop across the border from Afghanistan to China? The two nations share a border of 47 miles but are three and a half hours apart. Sorry, this is impossible. The Foreign Office 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 three-hour time difference. Check the Foreign Office advice for Pakistan before considering a trip.

6. Or get a full day

The International Date Line roughly follows the 180° line of longitude, which splits the Pacific Ocean in half. 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 – 25 minutes later, after crossing the International Date Line – land on your birthday again. Travel in the opposite direction if you want to skip Christmas.

Go to Samoa to experience time travelingGo to Samoa to experience time traveling

Go to Samoa to experience time traveling – Getty

7. To save or not to save

British Summer Time (BST) has been observed in the UK since 1916. Much of Europe and North America have their own version, Daylight Saving Time (DST) – but most of the world does not. That’s because, of course, as you get closer to the Equator, the need for it dissipates. This is perfectly illustrated by the fact that the southern half of Australia uses DST, but the northern half doesn’t (Brazil once had a similar policy, but Jair Bolsonaro scrapped it in 2019).

8. When Putin stopped time

When Vladimir Putin wants something, he usually gets it – and that includes ending time. In 2011, he abolished DST across the entire country, effectively erasing two time zones, and in 2015, after annexing the region, he moved Crimea’s clocks forward two hours to at the same time as Moscow.

9. Hawaii and Alaska share a time zone

You couldn’t find two more contrasting destinations, one famous for its surfing and beaches, the other for its icy desert. But they have a few things in common. Volcanoes. And time zone (except for half the year, when Alaska observes DST).

10. Other odd 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

Certain nations are out to confuse you. While most countries use time zones that differ from GMT by several whole hours, others use 30-minute offsets. Such as India, parts of Australia, Sri Lanka, Newfoundland, Iran, Myanmar and North Korea. More curiously, Nepal and New Zealand’s Chatham Islands use GMT+5:45 and GMT+12:45, respectively.

Nepal takes a very novel approachNepal takes a very novel approach

Nepal takes a very novel approach – Getty

12. Those who can’t decide

Märket, an 8.2 acre 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 Navajo Nation homeland in Arizona. Navajo observes DST, but Arizona does not. Result? For half the year, half the town is an hour ahead of the rest.

13. The time at the South Pole

Longitudes meet at the poles, so neither North nor South have an official time zone. But those scientists need to set their watches to something. At the North Pole, research stations follow the times in their respective countries, but the US-run 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 through New Zealand.

14. Time in space

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

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