Does Python's time.time() return the local or UTC timestamp?


Does time.time() in the Python time module return the system’s time or the time in UTC?

Asked By: Saransh Mohapatra



The time.time() function returns the number of seconds since the epoch, as a float. Note that "the epoch" is defined as the start of January 1st, 1970 in UTC. So the epoch is defined in terms of UTC and establishes a global moment in time. No matter where on Earth you are, "seconds past epoch" (time.time()) returns the same value at the same moment.

Here is some sample output I ran on my computer, converting it to a string as well.

>>> import time
>>> ts = time.time()
>>> ts
>>> import datetime
>>> datetime.datetime.fromtimestamp(ts).strftime('%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S')
'2012-12-15 01:21:05'

The ts variable is the time returned in seconds. I then converted it to a human-readable string using the datetime library.

Answered By: squiguy

This is for the text form of a timestamp that can be used in your text files. (The title of the question was different in the past, so the introduction to this answer was changed to clarify how it could be interpreted as the time. [updated 2016-01-14])

You can get the timestamp as a string using the .now() or .utcnow() of the datetime.datetime:

>>> import datetime
>>> print datetime.datetime.utcnow()
2012-12-15 10:14:51.898000

The now differs from utcnow as expected — otherwise they work the same way:

>>> print
2012-12-15 11:15:09.205000

You can render the timestamp to the string explicitly:

>>> str(
'2012-12-15 11:15:24.984000'

Or you can be even more explicit to format the timestamp the way you like:

>>>"%A, %d. %B %Y %I:%M%p")
'Saturday, 15. December 2012 11:19AM'

If you want the ISO format, use the .isoformat() method of the object:


You can use these in variables for calculations and printing without conversions.

>>> ts =
>>> tf =
>>> te = tf - ts
>>> print ts
2015-04-21 12:02:19.209915
>>> print tf
2015-04-21 12:02:30.449895
>>> print te
Answered By: pepr

Based on the answer from #squiguy, to get a true timestamp I would type cast it from float.

>>> import time
>>> ts = int(time.time())
>>> print(ts)

At least that’s the concept.

Answered By: Rudi Strydom

The answer could be neither or both.

  • neither: time.time() returns approximately the number of seconds elapsed since the Epoch. The result doesn’t depend on timezone so it is neither UTC nor local time. Here’s POSIX defintion for “Seconds Since the Epoch”.

  • both: time.time() doesn’t require your system’s clock to be synchronized so it reflects its value (though it has nothing to do with local timezone). Different computers may get different results at the same time. On the other hand if your computer time is synchronized then it is easy to get UTC time from the timestamp (if we ignore leap seconds):

    from datetime import datetime
    utc_dt = datetime.utcfromtimestamp(timestamp)

On how to get timestamps from UTC time in various Python versions, see How can I get a date converted to seconds since epoch according to UTC?

Answered By: jfs

There is no such thing as an “epoch” in a specific timezone. The epoch is well-defined as a specific moment in time, so if you change the timezone, the time itself changes as well. Specifically, this time is Jan 1 1970 00:00:00 UTC. So time.time() returns the number of seconds since the epoch.

Answered By: hyper-neutrino

I eventually settled for:

>>> import time
>>> time.mktime(time.gmtime())
Answered By: Natim

timestamp is always time in utc, but when you call datetime.datetime.fromtimestamp it returns you time in your local timezone corresponding to this timestamp, so result depend of your locale.

>>> import time, datetime

>>> time.time()

datetime.datetime(2019, 7, 30, 16, 42, 3, 899179)
>>> datetime.datetime.fromtimestamp(time.time())
datetime.datetime(2019, 7, 30, 16, 43, 12, 4610)

There exist nice library arrow with different behaviour. In same case it returns you time object with UTC timezone.

>>> import arrow
<Arrow [2019-07-30T16:43:27.868760+03:00]>
>>> arrow.get(time.time())
<Arrow [2019-07-30T13:43:56.565342+00:00]>

To get a local timestamp using datetime library, Python 3.x

#wanted format: year-month-day hour:minute:seconds

from datetime import datetime

# get time now
dt =
# format it to a string
timeStamp = dt.strftime('%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S')

# print it to screen
Answered By: Harry

time.time() return the unix timestamp.
you could use datetime library to get local time or UTC time.

import datetime

local_time =
print(local_time.strftime('%Y%m%d %H%M%S'))

utc_time = datetime.datetime.utcnow() 
print(utc_time.strftime('%Y%m%d %H%M%S'))
Answered By: HCHO
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