Understanding time zones in Brazil

Brazil is a continental sized country which is spread across four different time zones. In this article we will explain the timezones that are used in the different parts of the country.

 

Time zones

A time zone is a region on earth that has a uniform standard time for legal, commercial and social purposes. Time zones were created in 1884 during a meeting in Washington DC in which 24 countries participated. At this meeting, 24 time zones were created taking into account how long it takes earth to make a complete turn around its own axis.

The meridian of Greenwich is the initial mark (0º) and as one moves from east or west, the time zone changes. Taking into account that the earth spins from west to east, the time zone increases towards the east and decreases towards the west.

The Brazilian territory has four different time zones, all located to the west from Greenwich.

 

Time zones in Brazil

These are the three current Brazilian time zones:

UTC-02:00

The UTC−02:00 timezone is not the official time zone for any state and is only used on some islands located on the northeast coast of Brazil. These islands include Trindade and Martim Vaz, São Pedro and São Paulo and Atol das Rocas and Fernando de Noronha.

UTC-03:00

The UTC-03:00 timezone is considered to be the official Brazilian time. UTC−03:00 is referred to as Horário de Brasília or Horário Oficial de Brasília which is Brasília Official Time in Portuguese.

The timezone is commonly abbreviated to BRT and is the same as Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Brasília Official Time is adjusted with daylight saving. You can read more about this under the subheading "Daylight saving in Brazil" below.

22 out of the 27 Brazilian states adopt UTC-03:00 as their official timezone:

  • Distrito Federal
  • Paraná
  • Santa Catarina
  • Rio Grande do Sul
  • São Paulo
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Espírito Santo
  • Minas Gerais
  • Amapá
  • Pará
  • Maranhão
  • Tocantins
  • Goiás
  • Piauí
  • Ceará
  • Rio Grande do Norte
  • Paraíba
  • Pernambuco
  • Alagoas
  • Bahia
  • Sergipe
  • Goiás

 

UTC-04:00

There are 5 states in the west of the country that use UTC-04:00 as their official timezone:

  • Mato Grosso
  • Mato Grosso do Sul
  • Amazonas
  • Rondônia
  • Roraima

 

UTC-05:00

This is the most controversial timezone in Brazil. The UTC-05:00 timezone was discontinued in 2008 and reinstated in 2013.

The timezone was reinstated after a referendum held in 2010 where a majority of voters in Acre voted in favour of returning the state to UTC-05:00.

Today the UTC-05:00 timezone is used in the far-western tip of the country. This includes the entire state of Acre and the southwestern part of the Amazonas state.

 

Daylight saving in Brazil

Daylight saving was adopted in Brazil for the first time in 1931, and has changed several times over the years until it reached its current format, dating from 2003.

Currently, daylight saving is adopted in the south, southeast and central-west regions of Brazil. Other states like Tocantins and Bahia have also tested the concept of daylight saving time to reduce consumption of electricity, however they decided to return to the model without daylight savings.

Since 2008, daylight saving starts on the third Sunday of October and goes until the third Sunday of February, unless it coincides with Carnival holidays. In this case, the daylight saving is extended for one more week.

This is the list of the states who have adopted daylight saving:

  • Rio Grande do Sul
  • Santa Catarina
  • Paraná
  • São Paulo
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Espírito Santo
  • Minas Gerais
  • Goiás
  • Mato Grosso
  • Mato Grosso do Sul
  • Distrito Federal

During the period of daylight saving in Brazil the clock is moved forward by one hour, moving Brasília Official Time from UTC-03:00 to UTC-02:00.

This move of the Brasília Official Time also increase the difference between the states that use UTC-04:00 and UTC-05:00 to the Brasília Official Time with one additional hour.

Important: as daylight saving is not applied to all Brazilian states, be aware that business hours will differ among states, so take this into account when scheduling a meeting.

Stuart Beaty

Celsium, Birmingham, UK