EST - Eastern Standard Time (2024)

Time Zone:

Eastern Standard Time, EST

UTC offset:

UTC -5:00

Time Zone Abbreviation:


What does it refer to?

The Eastern Standard Time, abbreviated EST, refers to the standard time on the 5th time zone west of the Greenwich Meridian. This time zone is reckoned 75 degrees west of the Greenwich and it encompasses most of the eastern parts of the United States. It is also the timezone used in Canada, the Caribbean, and in a few countries of South America. All places using it are five hours before the universal time, UTC-05:00. This is during winter and autumn.

There are a total of 17 U.S. states within this zone, parts of eastern Canada, the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico, Panama in Central America, and the Caribbean islands. On the northern parts of the time zone on second Sunday of March when it is 2:00 AM EST, clocks are moved forward by one hour to 3:00 AM EDT (Eastern Daylight Time).

Conversely, on the first Sunday of the month of November when it is 2:00 AM EDT, clocks are usually moved back by one hour to 1:00 AM. However, some southern parts that include Panama and Caribbean territory do not take into consideration the daylight saving time.

In addition, the act of Uniform Time led to an institution of EDT to the last Sunday in April across the United States with effect from 1966. This meant that EST would again be observed on October, the last Sunday. In 1987, there were amendments of the EDT to the first Sunday of April of that year.

Furthermore, there were some other changes instituted by Energy Policy Act in 2005 that saw an extension in the daylight saving and this began to take effect from 2007. This means that there were some changes in timing and 2:00 AM EST would become 3:00 AM EDT in March the second Sunday. This also reflected that 2.00 AM EDT would become 1:00 AM EDT in November first Sunday. These changes are the same in Canada and the United States of America.

Locations observing EST

There are different locations of the world that observe Eastern Standard Time. Some of the locations are Canada, United States, Central America and the Caribbean territory.


This country is divided into six total times zones which were based on proposals by a Scottish Canadian railway engineer by the name of Sir Sanford Fleming. He was also one of the major players in the creation of the world’s first time zone system. A local ordinance in 1916 started the practice of Daylight Saving Time in the country. Today, most regions observe the practice, although the Constitution of Canada allows for laws regarding timekeeping to be decided by the individual provinces. When the United States extended their DST in 2005, Canada’s provinces followed suit across various dates in 2006 and 2007.

Canada also has to modify its broadcast schedule to accommodate its six time zones. A large portion of the viewing audience lives in the Mountain Time Zone which does help alleviate some of the issues that the United States faces. Much of the time changes are handled by showing pre-recorded programs on local time.

The following regions in Canada are some observing Eastern Standard Time:

  • Ontario, the whole location uses EST except some western areas like the Thunder Bay although Atikokan is included in the timing.
  • Quebec. However, far eastern parts like the Cote-Nord and Magdalen Islands are not included in the timing.
  • East/Central Nunavut uses EST. This includes places like the Melville Peninsula, Ellesmere, Baffin Islands, Iqaluit and Southampton Island although they do not observe DST.

The United States

The Columbia district including 17 states uses Eastern Standard Time: New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland and Georgia.

Additionally six states of America are split between EST and CST (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00):

  • This state uses officially CST but there are different communities that observe EST, like Phenix City, Lannet, Valley and Smiths Station.
  • This state uses EST but some portions like the Florida Panhandle, which is on the Eastern part of Apalachicola River is not part of it.
  • The entire state observes EST all the year except in Cincinnati and Louisville, which observe EDT during spring and summer.
  • The eastern part of Kentucky uses EST while the western part observes CST.
  • Michigan uses EST except a few areas in Upper Peninsula, which use CST.
  • Most of the state uses EST as the legal time. Some counties such as Cumberland, Marion and Bledsoe use CST.

Eastern Time is commonly used as the basis for the “official” time in the United States. This is because the country’s capital and its largest city (New York City) reside within that time zone. When national media outlets schedule broadcasts or reports on various news stories, they do so on a schedule that is based on EST, even if the event occurred in another time zone.

Television schedules are posted in EST as well in most cases. In the United States, many prime time shows and live events during weekends are broadcasted live in the EST zone. This is true of morning focused programs, with the exception of Good Morning America Weekend Edition. In this case, the program airs on something called a tape-delay.

Tape-delays are a practice of delaying a broadcast when it comes to material being filmed live. In many cases the delay is only about seven seconds and is used to correct for things like profanity, bloopers, or violence. For countries with multiple time zones, such as the United States, this delay is used to coordinate live broadcasts on different coasts. In this case it’s referred to as a “west-coast delay.”

Live shows broadcast in the eastern and central time zones and are tape-delayed on the west coast, including Southern California. Other live shows like CBS This Morning, Today, and Good Morning America, are done in the same method, allowing post production personnel to edit out any glitches that happened during the live broadcast.


The country of Mexico uses four main time zones, one of which is the equivalent of EST. Known as the Zona Sureste, this zone covers the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. This state is located on the southeastern tip of the country. It is one of the 31 states of Mexico, which combined with the Federal District totals 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. This state is divided into 10 municipalities and its capital is Chetumal.

Being located on the eastern part of the Yucatán Peninsula has its advantages as well. With the Caribbean Sea bordering the south of the state, beaches are plentiful. Many will know this state for the city of Cancún, in addition to the islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres. These are major vacation hot spots for travelers around the world.

The only real downside of this city is the exploding population as a result of new hotels being built and the need for an increased workforce. Hurricanes are a common issue as well since the state is exposed out in the Caribbean. The last major storm was Hurricane Dean in 2007 which had wind gusts of up to 200 miles per hour.

Quintana Roo changed to its current time zone on February 1st, 2015. During the seventeen years between 1982 and 1998 the state followed EST. It took two years of lobbying by the business and hotel owners, in addition to support from the state government, to convince the Federal government to switch it from CST to EST.

This places it in the realm of UTC -05:00, officially a part of EST. The state doesn’t observe daylight saving time, so they remain in CST throughout the year. There were several economic reasons that prompted this shift into a different time zone:

  • A major reason was to allow for tourists visiting places like Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen to have more time to visit the various beaches, restaurants, cultural sites, and so on. This would allow for more money to be spent at these locations.
  • The change would also lower the use of electricity by hotels, restaurants, and other locations in the state.

Caribbean and Central America

The Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Haiti, and Cuba use EST during the winter months. During the summer months they follow Eastern Daylight Time. In Cuba, these changes are the same but they usually occur on different days. The Turks and Caicos Islands originally fell into this time zone, but they switched to the Atlantic Time Zone in 2015.

Panama, a country in Central America which is divided into ten provinces, uses EST throughout the year. The lack of Daylight Saving Time is good for those who don’t wish to deal with the hassle of the changing time. The country is also a major tourist hotspot, with much of its economy based on this.

Many businesses and hotels benefit from being in this time zone and Panama also provides several incentives to attract new businesses to the country. For example, there are Special Tourism Zones where businesses can enjoy 100% exemption from taxes like income, real estate, and import duties. These zones are strategically placed and provide plenty of reasons for businesses to choose that location.

Other Time Zones within UTC -5:00

It’s worth noting that there are several other time zones within this same offset from the standard time. These zones occupy the same area as EST but have different names:

  • Acre Time - This zone is used in South America, primarily in Brazilian states (which use it year-round) and small portions of the Amazonas.
  • Central Daylight Time - While only certain countries, and parts of the United States within the CST zone use this, when they are within the summer months, the hour they go backward puts them in the same offset as EST. Several American, Mexican, and Canadian states/provinces follow CDT.
  • Colombia Time - Otherwise known as COT, this zone has the same offset as EST, but is used solely within the country of Colombia in South America.
  • Cuba Standard Time - This is another country specific zone known as CST. During the summer months Cuba Daylight Time is followed (CDT).
  • Easter Island Summer Time - This is a DST specific time zone that falls into the same offset. It is used on Easter Island and Rapa Nui in Chile.
  • Ecuador Time - This time zone is another country specific one, used only in Ecuador with the exception of the Galapagos Islands.
  • Peru Time - Same offset, used exclusively in Peru.
  • Romeo Time - This is a military time zone used most commonly with aviation. It is out on the sea between two different longitudes.
EST - Eastern Standard Time (2024)
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