Travel through time in your tests.

A quick example:

import datetime as dt
from zoneinfo import ZoneInfo
import time_machine

hill_valley_tz = ZoneInfo("America/Los_Angeles")

@time_machine.travel(dt.datetime(1985, 10, 26, 1, 24, tzinfo=hill_valley_tz))
def test_delorean():
    assert dt.date.today().isoformat() == "1985-10-26"

For a bit of background, see the introductory blog post and the benchmark blog post.


Use pip:

python -m pip install time-machine

Python 3.6 to 3.9 supported. Only CPython is supported at this time because time-machine directly hooks into the C-level API.

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travel(destination, *, tick=True)

travel() is a class that allows time travel, to the datetime specified by destination. It does so by mocking all functions from Python's standard library that return the current date or datetime. It can be used independently, as a function decorator, or as a context manager.

destination specifies the datetime to move to. It may be:

  • A datetime.datetime. If it is naive, it will be assumed to have the UTC timezone. If it has tzinfo set to a zoneinfo.ZoneInfo instance, the current timezone will also be mocked.
  • A datetime.date. This will be converted to a UTC datetime with the time 00:00:00.
  • A float or int specifying a Unix timestamp
  • A string, which will be parsed with dateutil.parse and converted to a timestamp.

Additionally, you can provide some more complex types:

  • A generator, in which case next() will be called on it, with the result treated as above.
  • A callable, in which case it will be called with no parameters, with the result treated as above.

tick defines whether time continues to "tick" after travelling, or is frozen. If True, the default, successive calls to mocked functions return values increasing by the elapsed real time since the first call. So after starting travel to 0.0 (the UNIX epoch), the first call to any datetime function will return its representation of 1970-01-01 00:00:00.000000 exactly. The following calls "tick," so if a call was made exactly half a second later, it would return 1970-01-01 00:00:00.500000.

Mocked Functions

All datetime functions in the standard library are mocked to move to the destination current datetime:

  • datetime.datetime.now()
  • datetime.datetime.utcnow()
  • time.gmtime()
  • time.localtime()
  • time.clock_gettime() (only for CLOCK_REALTIME)
  • time.clock_gettime_ns() (only for CLOCK_REALTIME)
  • time.strftime()
  • time.time()
  • time.time_ns()

The mocking is done at the C layer, replacing the function pointers for these built-ins. Therefore, it automatically affects everywhere those functions have been imported, unlike use of unittest.mock.patch().

Usage with start() / stop()

To use independently, create and instance, use start() to move to the destination time, and stop() to move back. For example:

import datetime as dt
import time_machine

traveller = time_machine.travel(dt.datetime(1985, 10, 26))
# It's the past!
assert dt.date.today() == dt.date(1985, 10, 26)
# We've gone back to the future!
assert dt.date.today() > dt.date(2020, 4, 29)

travel() instances are nestable, but you'll need to be careful when manually managing to call their stop() methods in the correct order, even when exceptions occur. It's recommended to use the decorator or context manager forms instead, to take advantage of Python features to do this.

Function Decorator

When used as a function decorator, time is mocked during the wrapped function's duration:

import time
import time_machine

@time_machine.travel("1970-01-01 00:00 +0000")
def test_in_the_deep_past():
    assert 0.0 < time.time() < 1.0

You can also decorate asynchronous functions (coroutines):

import time
import time_machine

@time_machine.travel("1970-01-01 00:00 +0000")
async def test_in_the_deep_past():
    assert 0.0 < time.time() < 1.0

Beware: time is a global state - see below.

Context Manager

When used as a context manager, time is mocked during the with block:

import time
import time_machine

def test_in_the_deep_past():
    with time_machine.travel(0.0):
        assert 0.0 < time.time() < 1.0

Class Decorator

Only unittest.TestCase subclasses are supported. When applied as a class decorator to such classes, time is mocked from the start of setUpClass() to the end of tearDownClass():

import time
import time_machine
import unittest

class DeepPastTests(TestCase):
    def test_in_the_deep_past(self):
        assert 0.0 < time.time() < 1.0

Note this is different to unittest.mock.patch()'s behaviour, which is to mock only during the test methods.

Timezone mocking

If the destination passed to time_machine.travel() or Coordinates.move_to() has its tzinfo set to a zoneinfo.ZoneInfo instance, the current timezone will be mocked. This will be done by calling time.tzset(), so it is only available on Unix. The zoneinfo module is new in Python 3.8 - on older Python versions use the backports.zoneinfo package, by the original zoneinfo author.

time.tzset() changes the time module’s timezone constants and features that rely on those, such as time.localtime(). It won’t affect other concepts of “the current timezone”, such as Django’s (which can be changed with its time.override()).

Here’s a worked example changing the current timezone:

import datetime as dt
import time
from zoneinfo import ZoneInfo
import time_machine

hill_valley_tz = ZoneInfo("America/Los_Angeles")

@time_machine.travel(dt.datetime(2015, 10, 21, 16, 29, tzinfo=hill_valley_tz))
def test_hoverboard_era():
    assert time.tzname == ("PST", "PDT")
    now = dt.datetime.now()
    assert (now.hour, now.minute) == (16, 29)


The start() method and entry of the context manager both return a Coordinates object that corresponds to the given "trip" in time. This has a couple methods that can be used to travel to other times.

move_to(destination, tick=None)

move_to() moves the current time to a new destination. destination may be any of the types supported by travel.

tick may be set to a boolean, to change the tick flag of travel.

For example:

import datetime as dt
import time
import time_machine

with time_machine.travel(0, tick=False) as traveller:
    assert time.time() == 0

    assert time.time() == 234


shift() takes one argument, delta, which moves the current time by the given offset. delta may be a timedelta or a number of seconds, which will be added to destination. It may be negative, in which case time will move to an earlier point.

For example:

import datetime as dt
import time
import time_machine

with time_machine.travel(0, tick=False) as traveller:
    assert time.time() == 0

    assert time.time() == 100

    assert time.time() == 90

pytest plugin

time-machine also works as a pytest plugin. It provides a function-scoped fixture called time_machine that has one method, move_to(), which has the same signature as Coordinates.move_to(). This can be used to mock your test at different points in time and will automatically be un-mock when the test is torn down.

For example:

import datetime as dt

def test_delorean(time_machine):
    time_machine.move_to(dt.datetime(1985, 10, 26))

    assert dt.date.today().isoformat() == "1985-10-26"

    time_machine.move_to(dt.datetime(2015, 10, 21))

    assert dt.date.today().isoformat() == "2015-10-21"


Time is a global state. Any concurrent threads or asynchronous functions are also be affected. Some aren't ready for time to move so rapidly or backwards, and may crash or produce unexpected results.

Also beware that other processes are not affected. For example, if you use SQL datetime functions on a database server, they will return the real time.


There are some prior libraries that try to achieve the same thing. They have their own strengths and weaknesses. Here's a quick comparison.


The standard library's unittest.mock can be used to target imports of datetime and time to change the returned value for current time. Unfortunately, this is fragile as it only affects the import location the mock targets. Therefore, if you have several modules in a call tree requesting the date/time, you need several mocks. This is a general problem with unittest.mock - see Why Your Mock Doesn't Work.

It's also impossible to mock certain references, such as function default arguments:

def update_books(_now=time.time):  # set as default argument so faster lookup
    for book in books:

Although such references are rare, they are occasionally used to optimize highly repeated loops.


Steve Pulec's freezegun library is a popular solution. It provides a clear API which was much of the inspiration for time-machine.

The main drawback is its slow implementation. It essentially does a find-and-replace mock of all the places that the datetime and time modules have been imported. This gets around the problems with using unittest.mock, but it means the time it takes to do the mocking is proportional to the number of loaded modules. In large projects, this can take several seconds, an impractical overhead for an individual test.

It's also not a perfect search, since it searches only module-level imports. Such imports are definitely the most common way projects use date and time functions, but they're not the only way. freezegun won’t find functions that have been “hidden” inside arbitrary objects, such as class-level attributes.

It also can't affect C extensions that call the standard library functions, including (I believe) Cython-ized Python code.


Simon Weber's python-libfaketime wraps the libfaketime library. libfaketime replaces all the C-level system calls for the current time with its own wrappers. It's therefore a "perfect" mock for the current process, affecting every single point the current time might be fetched, and performs much faster than freezegun.

Unfortunately python-libfaketime comes with the limitations of LD_PRELOAD. This is a mechanism to replace system libraries for a program as it loads (explanation). This causes two issues in particular when you use python-libfaketime.

First, LD_PRELOAD is only available on Unix platforms, which prevents you from using it on Windows.

Second, you have to help manage LD_PRELOAD. You either use python-libfaketime's reexec_if_needed() function, which restarts (re-execs) your test process while loading, or manually manage the LD_PRELOAD environment variable. Neither is ideal. Re-execing breaks anything that might wrap your test process, such as profilers, debuggers, and IDE test runners. Manually managing the environment variable is a bit of overhead, and must be done for each environment you run your tests in, including each developer's machine.


time-machine is intended to combine the advantages of freezegun and libfaketime. It works without LD_PRELOAD but still mocks the standard library functions everywhere they may be referenced. Its weak point is that other libraries using date/time system calls won't be mocked. Thankfully this is rare. It's also possible such python libraries can be added to the set mocked by time-machine.

One drawback is that it only works with CPython, so can't be used with other Python interpreters like PyPy. However it may possible to extend it to support other interpreters through different mocking mechanisms.

Migrating from libfaketime or freezegun

freezegun has a useful API, and python-libfaketime copies some of it, with a different function name. time-machine also copies some of freezegun's API, in travel()'s destination, and tick arguments, and the shift() method. There are a few differences:

  • time-machine's tick argument defaults to True, because code tends to make the (reasonable) assumption that time progresses between function calls, and should normally be tested as such. Testing with time frozen can make it easy to write complete assertions, but it's quite artificial.
  • freezegun's tick() method has been implemented as shift(), to avoid confusion with the tick argument. It also requires an explicit delta rather than defaulting to 1 second.
  • freezegun's tz_offset argument only partially mocks the current time zone. Time zones are more complicated than a single offset from UTC, and freezegun only uses the offset in time.localtime(). Instead, time-machine will mock the current time zone if you give it a datetime with a ZoneInfo timezone.

Some features aren't supported like the auto_tick_seconds argument. These may be added in a future release.

If you are only fairly simple function calls, you should be able to migrate by replacing calls to freezegun.freeze_time() and libfaketime.fake_time() with time_machine.travel().