Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Curious Case of Singapore’s Time Zone

Three years ago, my friend went to Singapore to spend her summer vacation. She told me that sunsets in Singapore were a bit late, usually at 7:30 PM. Also, it was still dark even at 6:30 in the morning. Being a geography geek, she was perplexed since Singapore is not located beyond the 25th degree of latitude; it is only a hundred miles or a degree north of Earth’s equator, thus the number of hours of day and night in Singapore is equally distributed.

(Beautiful Singapore. Photo credit: zoompict of Flickr)

Then, she noticed its geographical location and time zone. It follows the same time zone with Philippines, China and Taiwan (+8.00 GMT) but it is located within the time zone of Thailand (+7.00 GMT).

I was a bit puzzled with Singapore’s time zone too. Little by little I began to unearth the mysteries behind Singapore’s time zone.

Mok Ly Yng wrote an article about the history of Singapore’s time zone. Before January 1, 1901 Astronomical Observatories in Malaya would base their local mean time to its geographical location. Penang, Malacca and Singapore had their own observatories, ergo the three locations have their own time with minutes of differences.

By January 1, 1901, the local time of Singapore was adopted by Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States as the Standard Time. This was introduced due to the increasing demands of transportation and communication between these two states. This would ease the scheduling problems brought about by different times of the three locations. Singapore adopted the +7.00 GMT time zone then.

(The conic Merlion. Photo credit: zoompict of Flickr)

The country has undergone several changes on its time zone through their city ordinances. In 1930s, Singapore adopted the Daylight Saving Ordinance which made the country 7 hrs 20 mins ahead of GMT (Greenwhich Mean Time). In 1941, 10 mins was added to its current DST scheme, making it 7 hrs 30 mins ahead of GMT. When the Japanese forces invaded the island nation in 1942, Singapore time was moved ahead by 1 hr 30 min to conform with Tokyo Standard Time, which is 9 hours ahead of GMT but was set to its original time zone in 1955.

In the early 60s, Singapore became independent from Malaysia. Both of these countries follow the +7.30 GMT time zone.

Sometime in 1981, Malaysia declared that West Malaysia would move their clocks ahead by 30 minutes to match the time of East Malaysia, which is 8 hrs ahead of GMT. Singapore would be rather be in an awkward position if it didn't follow Malaysia. Ergo, Singapore followed Malaysia's new time zone.

In 1995, it was proposed by ASEAN leaders that an ASEAN Common Time (ACT) be adopted and it was later suggested that this would only be implemented for all the capital cities of ASEAN. A year later, in 1996, at the first informal meeting of the Heads of Government of ASEAN in Jakarta, the Heads of Government agreed to review the matter during the period of 2000-2003.
This is the tabular summary of Singapore's chronological adoptation of different "Standard Time" in Singapore:

Period in use Time offset from GMT Reference Meridian Name of Time (unofficial)
Until 1905 May 31 + 6hr 55m 25s 103° 51’ 16” E Singapore Mean Time
1905 Jun 01 - 1932 Dec 31 + 7hr 00m 00s 105° 00’ 00” E Standard Zone Time
1933 Jan 01 - 1941 Aug 31 + 7hr 20m 00s 110° 00’ 00” E Daylight Saving Time
1941 Sep 01 - 1942 Feb 15 + 7hr 30m 00s 112° 30’ 00” E Daylight Saving Time
1942 Feb 16 - 1945 Sep 12 + 9hr 00m 00s 135° 00’ 00” E Tokyo Standard Time
1945 Sep 13 - 1981 Dec 31 + 7hr 30m 00s 112° 30’ 00” E DST/MST/SST a
1982 Jan 01 - Present + 8hr 00m 00s 120° 00’ 00” E Singapore Standard Time
NOTE:a DST = Daylight Saving Time, MST = Malaya/Malaysia Standard Time, SST = Singapore Standard Time.

So now, you know.

For more queries and information regarding this matter, please don’t hesitate to email Mok Ly Yng at or read an article about the geographical location of Singapore.


  1. Thanks for this post. Been wanting to research about it, too. I just keep forgetting. Makes sense for Malaysia to have a unified time zone for the East and the West. It's basically the same logic behind China's unified time zone, even if, geographically speaking, there should be 3. Economics nga naman.

  2. Yep, geographically speaking dapat 3 ang timezones ng China. But yeah, economically speaking, dapat iisa lang yan. :)

    I'd want to experience a 7:30 PM sunset though. :)

  3. I have been wanting to know the reason for this for the looongest time. The late sunsets in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore kinda threw off my itinerary for a bit during my first visit. Medyo OC kase ako sa sunsets ^_^ Thanks talaga, it cleared out my confusion.

  4. they followed Hong Kong time. that's why at 7am it's still dark when you're in Singapore.

  5. Marcos and Marxtermind - diba every traveler will always wonder kung bakit +8.00 GMT time zone ng Singapore where in fact magkahilera lang sila sa Thailand at Indonesia. Now we know!

    Dong ho - Yep! And the sun's still up even at 7PM! :D

  6. 7.30pm Sunset? That's nothing compared to the States -- having dinner at 8.30pm while the sun is still high! Seriously. :)

  7. naks! ikaw na ang maraming time mag research. tanda ko parang pinaguusapan lang natin 'to when I was in Davao. yup pag dating ng 7:30 pm pa nga minsan ang sunset. matagal tagal ang intay ko para magnight shoot the last time i was there...hehe

  8. I noticed the same thing in Malaysia, it was the first country I visited and the late sunset was the first thing I noticed.

  9. @Paolo - I'd want to visit the Scandinavian countries in summer where sunsets are very late, usually 11:30 PM or minsan maabutan pa yung midnight sun!Intense!

    @Claire - Yep! Lalo na sa West Malaysia, parang napakafar-out ng time zone niya sa lugar mismo. :)

    @Jerome - Diba, nakapagtataka rin, sa location pa lang ng Singapore, dapat +7.00 GMT na time zone niya, pero likewise may sagot na tayo kung bakit nasa +8.00 GMT zone siya. ;D

  10. whoa. several changes of time zones thru city ordinances. hmmm. curious indeed.

  11. Ang galing naman ng post mo, Renz, very well-explained. We went to Singapore a couple of years back, and we noticed nga na madilim pa when dapat maliwanag na or maliwanag pa when dapat madilim na. Never had the time to dig for answers, though. Now, alam ko na. :)

  12. Indeed, curiosity kills a cat. Hahaha. :) Thakns ate Leah! :D

  13. Hahaha! So ganun pala! Ang rich naman ng history ng Singapore time zone. When I was in Singapore, nagtataka din ako kasi parang (for me, at least) ang bilis magdilim sa kanila :)

  14. I'm also baffled by this occurrence. Thanks.


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