When you wonder which country has the most time zones, your mind probably goes to the countries with the largest area – Russia, Canada, the USA, China, etc – but that is incorrect. Instead, it’s better to think about the question in terms of history, colonialism, and global extent rather than sheer land mass.
Surprisingly, the country with the most time zones is France with 12 (13 including its claim in Antarctica), according to Guinness World Records. This high number is primarily because of the various territories across the globe it still rules over, from French Polynesia and islands in the Caribbean right across to islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific.
The time zones that are observed in France, as well as its overseas territories, are as follows:
UTC−10:00: most of French Polynesia
UTC−09:30: Marquesas Islands
UTC−09:00: Gambier Islands
UTC−08:00: Clipperton Island
UTC−04:00 (AST): Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin
UTC−03:00 (PMST): French Guiana, Saint Pierre and Miquelon
UTC+01:00 (CET): mainland France
UTC+03:00:Mayotte, Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean
UTC+04:00: Réunion, Crozet Islands
UTC+05:00: Kerguelen Islands, Saint Paul, and Amsterdam Islands
UTC+11:00: New Caledonia
UTC+12:00: Wallis and Futuna
To wind back for a second, the loose idea behind geographic time zones is to divide the globe into 24 portions, one for every hour of the day, with each slice equating to 15 degrees. As ever, things are a little more complicated in practice.
This is because locations don’t just agree on a time zone strictly because of longitudinal lines on a map, but also due to a variety of cultural, political, and geographical reasons. Just to make things a little more confusing, some countries also have a time zone that’s just half an hour off the majority of places. Nepal is perhaps the oddest of all as it's 15 minutes out of sync with most of the world (UTC+5:45).
As a result, the world currently has 38 observed time zones, not 24. The majority of countries have a single time zone, although around 23 countries have two or more time zones. Russia and the US both have 11 time zones, followed by Antarctica, Australia, and the UK with 9 time zones, then Canada with 6.
Even though China spans almost five geographical time zones it only has a single time zone for the whole country: Beijing Time. The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the northwest of the country does sometimes go by local “Xinjiang time”, which is two hours behind, although there have been efforts to stamp out this practice in a bid to build national unity across all of China.
India also has a single time zone despite its vast land and colossal population. While this is said to be good for a unified national identity, it does mean that the sun rises and falls at very different times depending on where you are in large countries that observe a single time zone.