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There are several ways and many tags available to add information about destinations and destination signs to OSM. This is aiming to be a description of all tags and 'best practices'.

I tried to keep all information as general as possible. In case of personal opinion, I put it in boxes like this.

Available Tagging Methods

There are three commonly used ways to enter details from destination signs

  1. destination=* , destination:*=* These tags can be used on highways to indicate their destination. Various subkeys describe details. This is the most common method and the only one covered on this wiki page.
  2. Relation type=destination_sign Destination signs can be added as relation. This allows to identify the location of the sign as well as the precise way it points to. This relation allows to add most information, e.g. given travel times and distances can be added easily. It is less common than 1. because editing relations is more work.
  3. direction_*=* A third, not well documented option are tags like direction_north, direction_southwest:3. These tags are only mentioned as a side note in the German page on guideposts: DE:Tag:information=guidepost

I usually stick to version 1 for any type of road markings. When it comes to hiking trails, I sometimes use version 2 to be able to add estimated durations and distances.

:forward, :backward and :lanes

All destination - Tags can be combined with suffixes as needed:

  • If a way is not a oneway road, destination tags only apply to one direction - that means, always add :forward or :backward to any destination tag.
  • If only one lane of a road leads to the destination (e.g. a turn lane in front of an intersection), use the :lanes suffix.
  • In rare circumstances, even the :conditional suffix can make sense: If a certain route is available only at given times, e.g. a mountain pass that is closed in winter and destination signs leading there are removed.
  • If a destination is only posted for a certain type of vehicle (hgv or bicycle are common), one could use destination:hgv:..., but this is used very rarely and not yet supported by any tool.

Examples: destination:forward, destination:ref:lanes:forward or, in general terms:


These suffixes are not mentioned in the description of tags below - all of them can and should be extended by suffixes.

Where to tag?

There are two places where destinations can be tagged on roads:

  • On the way leaving an intersection / splitting of ways. This is the classical way how destination tags are used and the most simple way.
  • On the way in front of an intersection. Here, the destination needs to be added to a specific lane (e.g. the exit lane of a motorway) using the :lanes suffix. This makes it more complicated, but also has the advantage of tagging a precisely defined lane with the information, possibly helping routers to display better advices.

In case of simple intersections, possibly somewhere in the countryside, I prefer the simple tagging of the destination on the way after the intersection. This saves a lot of work, and still has enough information to display during navigation.

In case of more complex intersections where it might not be obvious which lane to take, I prefer the more complex tagging on lanes in front of the intersection.

Handling many entries

Many destination signs do not show a single destination, but several. These can be added as a list, separated by ';'. In general, the order should be similar to the one on signs, for example from top to bottom.

How to mark to which entry a symbol belongs to?

Imagine a sign that has four destinations, the third one is marked with a symbol. The destinations clearly are a semicolon separated list with four entries. Now we can use the same four entries long list in the destination:symbol tag, leave it mostly empty and just add the symbol in the appropriate place:

destination        = A;B;Company;C
destination:symbol = ;;industrial;

The same scheme applies for other tags like :colour or :arrow. This way of tagging is fully backwards compatible with mappers and software not using it: Empty entries in the list should not hurt in 'older' software and only the additional information given by them is lost.

I believe that this type of tagging is versatile enough to cover most use cases. Clearly, there are exceptions, but to cover those one would need a much more complex tagging that should be avoided. I suggest to have the lists of "normal" destination tags and those with a ":to" separated.

Available Tags

Here is a comprehensive list of all tags, detailed descriptions can usually be found on the linked pages.


in use (130,000x), see Key:destination

This is the main destination tag and holds all texts, names of cities, or other destinations. Do not put descriptions of the sign here, e.g. "Police", unless this is actually written on the sign.


proposed and in use (77,000x), see Proposed_features/Destination_details#destination:ref

The number of a road given on the sign. This is usually a road, starting within few hundred meters after the way tagged like this - if there are several kilometers in between, have a look at destination:ref:to.


proposed and in use (2,000x), see Proposed_features/Destination_details#destination:int_ref

The international reference number for the highway, e.g. an European highway 'E 12'.


proposed and in use (500x), see Proposed_features/Destination_details#destination:lang:.3Clanguage_code.3E

If names are given in two languages, these can be tagged with :lang:XX, where XX is the usual language code.


proposed and in use (1,800x), see Proposed_features/Destination_details#destination:country

Destinations in other countries are often marked with a abbreviation of the country name. Usually this is the license plate code of the country - if in doubt, copy from the sign.


proposed and in use (11,000x), see Proposed_features/Destination_details#destination:symbol

Lists symbols shown on the sign, e.g. a stadium or an industrial zone. See the link above for a list of common symbols.


proposed and in use (2,000x), see Proposed_features/Destination_details#destination:ref:to

In some cases, a number of a road is mentioned that can be reached after a longer distance (in the US marked with 'to', but also e.g. in Germany as announcement of motorways). If there is symbol, name or colour associated with this entry on the sign, use one of the following keys:





mentioned in the forums, no formal proposal, in use (4,100x)

This is the background color of the text. It should only be tagged if it is different from the default. E.g. in a country where all references to motorways are green, there is no need to tag this as it can be computed from the ref or symbol.


no formal proposal, in use (6,000x)

This is used primarily in the US, when a name of a road is mentioned as destination, but can be found in other countries too.


mentioned in the forums, no formal proposal (<100x)

A rather new concept of additional information: If destinations are tagged on a per-lane basis in front of an intersection and one lane leads in different directions (e.g. left and through), this tag can be used to mark which destination belongs to which direction of travel. Values are the same as in the turn key.