Setting the Timezone in Django

When building a Django application, one important but often overlooked setting is configuring the correct timezone. Setting the right timezone ensures dates and times are displayed accurately for users around the world. In this post, we’ll explore the various ways to set the timezone in Django.

Why Timezones Matter

First, let’s discuss why properly setting the time zone is crucial in Django apps. Mainly, there are two reasons:

For one, you want dates and times to be correct for your users based on their geographic location. For example, if you store UTC datetimes in your database, 5 PM in San Francisco would display as 1 AM without proper time zone handling.

Additionally, specifying timezones avoids ambiguous datetimes during Daylight Saving Time transitions. Without the time zone, Django won’t know if to apply DST offsets.

Django’s Default TimeZone Behavior

By default, Django uses UTC datetimes internally. However, it does not convert these UTC datetimes to the end user’s local time zone. So dates and times will be incorrect unless you configure time zone handling.

Setting the Timezone in

The easiest way to set the timezone is by adding TIME_ZONE to your Django file.

For example, to set the time zone to US/Pacific Time:

TIME_ZONE = 'US/Pacific'

Django supports all major timezones. You can also use timezone abbreviations like PST.

This sets the default time zone globally across the Django project. Any datetime output will now be time zone-aware and converted to this time zone.

Setting Local Timezones

Sometimes, you may want to set different timezones per user. For example, viewers around the world could each see dates/times converted to their own geographic timezone.

To enable this, use AuthenticationMiddleware and the django.utils.timezone method localtime:

from django.utils import timezone

local_datetime = timezone.localtime(utc_datetime) 

This converts UTC datetimes to the browser’s time zone based on offsets sent by the client’s operating system.

Honoring Users’ Timezone Preferences

For even better time zone handling, you can load timezones based on the user’s preferences instead of the client browser.

Django has a USE_TZ setting in to enable this behavior:

USE_TZ = True

With this set, Django will look for a time_zone value stored for logged-in users and use it when displaying dates/times.

Testing Timezones

Whenever you add timezone handling, be sure to test it thoroughly. Some ways to test:

  • Manually switch your own browser/OS time zone and confirm dates/times change properly
  • View application dates/times from different geographic locations
  • Modify database datetimes to simulate ambiguity errors

Catching time zone issues early prevents headaches down the road!


Handling timezones well is a key but nuanced part of building robust Django applications. By default, Django uses naive (time zone-unaware) UTC datetimes internally.

To display accurate, localized datetimes, configure the global and per-user timezones using settings.TIME_ZONE and timezone.localtime. Enable intelligent user timezone preferences with USE_TZ.

And importantly, thoroughly test your application’s time zone behavior! Catching subtle datetime issues early on will save you time.

With proper configuration, your Django application can seamlessly handle datetimes and timezones, delivering a polished experience across the globe.