Convert UTC datetime string to local datetime

I’ve never had to convert time to and from UTC. Recently had a request to have my app be timezone aware, and I’ve been running myself in circles. Lots of information on converting local time to UTC, which I found fairly elementary (maybe I’m doing that wrong as well), but I can not find any information on easily converting the UTC time to the end-users timezone.

In a nutshell, and android app sends me (appengine app) data and within that data is a timestamp. To store that timestamp to utc time I am using:


That seems to be working. When my app stores the data, it is being store as 5 hours ahead (I am EST -5)

The data is being stored on appengine’s BigTable, and when retrieved it comes out as a string like so:

"2011-01-21 02:37:21"

How do I convert this string to a DateTime in the users correct time zone?

Also, what is the recommended storage for a users timezone information? (How do you typically store tz info ie: “-5:00” or “EST” etc etc ?) I’m sure the answer to my first question might contain a parameter the answers the second.


If you don’t want to provide your own tzinfo objects, check out the python-dateutil library. It provides tzinfo implementations on top of a zoneinfo (Olson) database such that you can refer to time zone rules by a somewhat canonical name.

from datetime import datetime
from dateutil import tz

# METHOD 1: Hardcode zones:
from_zone = tz.gettz('UTC')
to_zone = tz.gettz('America/New_York')

# METHOD 2: Auto-detect zones:
from_zone = tz.tzutc()
to_zone = tz.tzlocal()

# utc = datetime.utcnow()
utc = datetime.strptime('2011-01-21 02:37:21', '%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S')

# Tell the datetime object that it's in UTC time zone since 
# datetime objects are 'naive' by default
utc = utc.replace(tzinfo=from_zone)

# Convert time zone
central = utc.astimezone(to_zone)

Edit Expanded example to show strptime usage

Edit 2 Fixed API usage to show better entry point method

Edit 3 Included auto-detect methods for timezones (Yarin)

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