Colombia/Guide for mapping

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This guide was created to standardize the names, labels, classifications of roads and streets to create a map of Colombia that is usable, detailed, clear and consistent.

  • The first step is to become familiar with the OSM concepts. The Beginners' guide is a good starting point.
  • Please do not add data that violates people's privacy or data from military or police zones.
  • The OpenStreetMap cartography should not be use in an official way for Colombia.
  • Do not copy data from maps or other website such as GoogleMaps, unless you are authorized to do so.


Before mapping and editing in OpenStreetMap it is good to read:

Tags of roads in Colombia

Street names

Main article: ES:Colombia/Nomenclatura para calles
  • For street names (with numeric part) use name=*. Do not use the tag ref=* for the name.
  • Always use the street full. Do not use abbreviations.
  • Some ways can have an official name, and the official_name=* tag is used to this purpose.
  • The common names will go in the alt_name=* tag. If there are common names, they will go in the alt_name=* tag separated by semicolon.
  • Always use the most recent street name. If you know the old name, it can put it with old_name=* label


name=Calle 77
name=Carrera 19A
name=Diagonal 45
name=Transversal 30
name=Avenida Carrera 68
name=Avenida Calle 72
official_name=Avenida Chile
name=Avenida Carrera 30
official_name=Avenida Gilberto Alzate Avendaño
alt_name=Avenida de las Palmas
name=Carrera 45
old_name=Carrera 38A

Street classifications

The highway classification in Colombia is done by the Transport ministry and Invías who based on functionality, traffic volume, population, and travel length criteria, among others, categorize the highways in first, second and third order.

There is not an absolute agreement about the tag usage. Some points are described in the mail list.

For more information about the global values: OSM tags for routing/Access restrictions.

For vehicles

This classification is also described at Highway:International equivalence.

Rural Urban
highway=motorway Do NOT use this category. These roads simply do NOT exist in Colombia. Even roads with local names having the word "autopista" (motorway), because they do not meet the  requirements for motorways. Roads tagged with this tag are therefore in error and should be corrected.
highway=trunk National trunk roads are defined by the Colombian Transport Ministry, as roads ("troncales" and "transversales") as primary roads which start at international border crossings and connect major state capitals and/or ports. Highways that have at least two lanes in each direction and traverse the entire city. Examples in Bogotá: NQS, Calle 80, Autopista Norte, Avenida Eldorado, Avenue of the Americas, Avenida Boyacá; in Medellin: Via Las Palmas.
highway=primary They connect major cities, department capitals, border crossings, ports. Called "National roads" (Carreteras nacionales). Main roads interconnecting neighborhoods crossing the city. Examples in Bogotá: Calle 68, Circunvalar, Avenida Cali.
highway=secondary Main roads connecting large towns, with more than 15.000 inhabitants. Called "Inter municipality roads (Carreteras inter municipales)". Streets that traverse neighborhoods.

Examples in Bogota Carrera 15, Carrera 11, Calle 85, Calle 92, Calle 94, Calle 57.

highway=tertiary These are roads connecting municipalities, with less than 15.000 inhabitants. Called "Inter veredal roads (Carreteras inter veredales). The main access streets running through neighborhoods. Examples in Bogotá: Calle 86A, Calle 90. They also represent the higher traffic roads connecting in between secondary and above major arteries; will usually lead through commercial and/or office areas on either side of these.
highway=*_link Use (e.g. highway=trunk_link) for roads (sliproads/ramps) leading from a road to a higher level road.
highway=residential Residential streets. Used only by local traffic to access housing.
highway=living_street This kind of road does NOT exist in Colombia, therefor it should NOT be used in residential areas, nor in any kind of road. No legislation exists in Colombia for comparable roads in other countries -  Living street (en).
highway=unclassified Never assign this kind of highway to an already mapped highway with other type.

When the highway is type unknown please use road, instead of unclassified.

Minor roads leading to smaller villages or running in between different municipalities; these usually have little traffic on them. Not as important enough to be classified as tertiary or above.

(Please view the Spanish discussion.)IN NEED OF FURTHER REVIEW

When the highway is type unknown please use road, instead of unclassified.

Minor non-residential public roads, usually found within industrial zones. They may also connect in-between municipalities. These may be roads with little traffic; not small enough to be classified as service, but not as important as other major arteries such as tertiary or secondary; they are mostly used by commercial and/or industrial traffic.

highway=service Access roads to private areas, such as the internal ways of a shopping mall, petrol stations, buildings, parking lots, a club, or an enterprise area (like Corabastos).
highway=track Roads used mostly for agricultural or forestry purposes, on which a 4-wheel drive vehicle or farm tractor could travel on. This classification is indifferent to the surface of the road; for this purpose, you can use the highway=* tag and use the surface=* with an appropriate value that represents the surface on the road. Remember to not map for the renderer

NOTE: according to comments on Telegram Colombia, tracks are used for all "minor bad roads", not just those described here.

NOTE: The use of highway=road is discouraged in any case, as it may affect routing on router software which utilize OSM data.


  • highway=pedestrian. Pedestrian streets. Normally, there are common streets with a large enough width for vehicles, but they are strictly used by pedestrian. For example, T-zone (Zona T) in Bogota.
  • highway=footway. Mainly/exclusively for pedestrians, with a reduced width and vehicles access is not allowed.
  • highway=path. This is for small paths that a 4-wheeled vehicle could not travel on and are usually used by people on foot or 2-wheeled vehicles. They may or may not connect settlements or lead to farm fields.

Road numbers

Main article: ES:Colombia/Carreteras nacionales

National highways and other highways with an identifier assigned by a government agency use ref=*. For example, the segments of National Highway 50 are tagged like this:


Considerations for the ref=* tag usage:

  • Do not use this value for the name of the highway, at least when the purpose is to give visibility on the map (check Good practice-Don't map for the renderer). To add extra names to a way, use the tags described in the wiki about Names.
  • Remember to map what is on the ground, and not an imagined version of the map; the map should have a coherence with what exist and what the user will see. Examples:
    • The segments of the national highways normally are tagged with the number (it means 50 for the segments of the National Route 50); however, the segment 08A of the National Route 50 will have a name like 5008A along the way. Therefore, this name will be used event if this does not follow the naming standard for the rest of highways.
    • The "Variantes", "Pasos" and "Ramales" have an assigned reference by Invías (for example, 25 CC B for the Popayán "Variante"). In this case the trunks that are drawn as "Variantes", as it is the case of "Troncal de Occidente en Popayán", could be tagged such as ref=25 and highway=trunk to give continuity to the segments of the main road. If the "Variante" do not have a reference number, do not apply the ref=25 to "Variante" way ways, because they have another reference.
    • For highways that have an assigned reference but they do not have signs of the reference, you can use unsigned_ref=*.

Traffic signs

Main article: ES:Colombia/Guía para mapear señales de tránsito

Vertical signs

Vertically positioned traffic signs, themselves, are to be mapped as a node node at the location of the sign, using the tag traffic_sign=* according to this traffic sign list (es) for Colombia. Even more important than mapping the sign's actual location itself is to apply the corresponding relation to apply the restriction to the ways the sign affects. For example, it is good to map the speed limit signs, but it is even more important to apply the maxspeed=* to the segments of highways affected. For restrictions applicable only to specific types of vehicles, for specific circumstances and/or during specific time periods see here. All this data is then interpreted by navigation software which works off of OpenStreetMap data for routing.

For more information on how to map a traffic sign (if a node should be used node, a way way, or a relation relation, for example) you can see the Related tags in the traffic signs (es)page. In order to solve any further doubts, please follow the link for the related tag to find more information about it. You may also find other useful information under traffic_sign=*.

Horizontal signs

Horizontal signs are yet another factor directly affecting traffic. Sometimes these signs may be a little confusing, specially to foreigners not used to, or unaware of the local transit laws. An example for this may be found on streets on which painted arrows on the lanes, particularly at road intersections and in theory specifying permitted turns: you will see an arrow "allowing" right-hand turns, combined with another "allowing" to go forward, but no third arrow "allowing" left-hand turns even though this is NOT an actual restriction and in most cases IS legal to do so. This particular issue has been looked into with the local transit authorities through the local "right of petition" / "derecho de petición" which confirms that even though these (arrows) have not been painted, it IS still legal to do so under most circumstances. Because of all this, entering turn restrictions is not encouraged in Colombia (even in those cases in which the horizontal signs would apparently seem to NOT allow this), unless there is some OTHER visible sign proving it to be illegal, such as onto oneway streets (in the opposite direction), any other signs specifically showing this restriction or even "local knowledge".


Within the Colombian cities, addresses will use the following format:

[street name] # [number1]-[number2]

For example:

Calle 72 # 7-12

Alternatively, the pound sign (#) could also be found abbreviated as: No., but this abbreviated form should not be used, nor is interpreted by OSM at all. The "#" symbol in the above example serves to separate the highway - street name/number to distinguish the two numbers seen on the property which form the address as a whole. The street name is the same as explained previously in the street naming section, where the same notation rules apply and it is mapped with the addr:street=* tag. The sign with the address numbers indicate the access point to the property from the nearest intersection and with the lowest denomination, separated by a dash from the number of meters from the intersection. Then, the intersection, or also called generating way, is written in number1 with all the notation rules that that way implies (letters, Bis, cardinal sense), but omitting the type of way. This is to be followed by a dash without any spaces left before or after the numbers. Finally, in number2 you may write the number of meters to the access from the intersection of the road on which the property is located, and the intersecting road. Therefore, under the best of circumstances, both the intersecting road as well the distance are referred to in addr:housenumber=*.

In the previous example, the given address is located on Calle 72, and 12 meters away from Carrera 7. Of course, this in reality is not accomplished too accurately, but that describes the general idea behind the house numbering system in addresses.

Example tagging for address: Kr 14 no. 67A - 23 in Bogotá.

Outside of city limits streets are usually not named or numbered. In these cases, addresses may be expressed in reference to the nearest milestone combined with the name of the road, e.g. Km. 25 Autopista Medellín. Alternatively, a higher approximation may be expressed by the use of meters, as in Km 25+500, meaning 500 meters past mile marker 25. Since the addr=* schema doesn't quite work for these cases, addr:full=* can be used instead. Although there is a tag proposal currently in the process of getting approved by the OSM community for these cases.

More tags that can be useful/necessary:

When possible, you should add these tags to the area you draw for the building, using for example the building=residential. Sometimes more than one building has the same address; this happens with condominiums were a group of apartment buildings share the same front gate (and one address). In this case it is probably best to draw a polygon around the condo and tag as landuse=residential and then add a main entrance node on the line of the polygon with tags entrance=yes and the address details. Additionally you can then draw the buildings and tag them building=apartments but do not also add the address tags to them.

You may also check this page: Geocoding_naming_formats_and_challenges#Colombia.

As the last part, some addresses have a complement, such as apartment X, house Y, tower Z. These values ​​are written under the tag addr:unit=*.

Postal codes

Main article: Colombia/Guide_for_mapping_postal_codes

In OSM, we map the 6 digit postal code.

Telephone numbers

Main article: Colombia/Guide for mapping phone numbers

The structure of telephone numbers is the next one, which follows the international standard ITU-T E.123:

phone=+<country code> <area code> <local number>

The international code (country code) for Colombia is 57, and it should be followed by the + sign.

The area code (or NDC-National Destination code) corresponds to the geographic area or mobile operator and it is 3 digits long. This section should be separated by a space from the country code, and it is not surrounded by parenthesis. The area code dictates which kind of number is, a landline one or a mobile one.

After the area code comes the phone number (SN - Subscriptor number), and this contains 7 digits. It is separated from the area code by a blankspace.

Mass transit bus

Main article: Colombia/Guide_for_mapping_transport
  • For  Bus rapid transit systems (such as the Transmilenio in Bogotá) that have dedicated roads closed to all other traffic, tag the way dedicated road:
  • The stop is mapped as a node node along the highway at the position where the bus stops:
name=Calle 76
  • The station (where users wait for and board the bus) is mapped with a node node, way way or area area depending on the level of detail of the available imagery and tagged:
name=Calle 76
  • "Portales" (hubs where feeder routes connect to trunk lines) are tagged like this:
name=Portal 80
  • Do not use amenity=bus_station for the bus stops, even if they are called locally like that.
  • The name should be exactly the same as it is appear on the signs, as the users see it on the ground and as it is presented in documents or official maps.

The article Colombia/Transport explains in greater detail how to map the different elements of bus public systems (like the SITP in Bogota), or Bus Rapid Transit  BTR (like Transmilenio), among others.

Previously, BRT ways was mapped with highway=service; however, they have to be updated to the new tag.


Generally, the bicycle guide can be used for mapping bike lanes:

  • Add cycleway=lane to highway=*. A cycle lane that lies within the roadway and is generally not separated by more than a marking on the road.

For cycleways that lie separated (by grass, kirb, etc.) from the road, now there are two conventions in use in Colombia (and the rest of the world).

  • Create a separate track next to the road and use highway=cycleway. This is useful because it often allows for more details but, it can longer to map than the first option.
  • Add cycleway=track to exciting road.

Often cycle ways have different directions than the part of the road used by cars. The general wiki provides a good guide for all different possibilities.


In some major cities in Colombia, certain roads are closed to motorized traffic on Sunday mornings for the citizens to bike, walk and exercise (see  Ciclovía - Origins_in_Colombia).

To map this, a relation should be used that contains all segments of the highways that compose the ciclovía. The ciclovías in Bogotá are divided by areas, like it is described at IDRD and IDECA pages. For this reason there should be a relation of ciclovía for each group.

As part of the ciclovía mapping, the next tags should be used:

  • name=* which is the ciclovía name. For example: Ciclovía Avenida Pepe Sierra - Avenida Córdoba
  • network=lcn because this is a local network of cycleways.
  • operator=IDRD, which is the entity that controls the access to only bicycle and people during the ciclovía time.
  • ref=* in the IDRD page you can see the codes for each ciclovía segment.
  • route=bicycle
  • type=route

Additionally, to map the change from motor vehicles to bikes, the conditional restrictions is used. For this reason, the following tags should be added:

motor_vehicle:conditional=no @ Su 0700-1400
bicycle:conditional=yes @ Su 0700-1400
foot:conditional=yes @ Su 0700-1400

The first tag means that the motor vehicle access is conditioned, in a way that they cannot transit during Sundays between 7 am and 2 pm. In an opposite way, the bicycles and pedestrians have conditioned access that allow them transit there in the same time.

This is a project about how to map ciclovías in Bogotá.


River tags are well documented: waterway=river and waterway=riverbank .

When the riverbed is the same as an administrative boundary, keep the both objects separated, because the riverbed will change in the time, while the administrative boundary will remain intact. This means that the rivers and administrative boundaries should be mapped separately, at least the legal boundary is the river. Mapping both objects separately prevent accidental movement of the administrative limits when dealing with the riverbed.

This is the list of main rivers in Colombia (es).

This is a list of water bodies in Spanish, with the IDEAM definition.

  • Río (River): A large stream of water that serves as a natural channel in a drainage basin.
  • Quebrada (Stream): Normally small and shallow natural course of water, usually of permanent flow, in a certain way turbulent and tributary of a river and / or sea.
  • Arroyo: Small and shallow watercourse, usually of permanent flow and somewhat turbulent.
  • Caño (Spout): Natural course of water with intermittent flow typical of flat areas.
  • Canal (Channel): Open artificial channel whose cross section has a generally constant, clearly differentiated shape, which contains permanently or periodically moving water, or which links two bodies of water.
  • Estero: Coastal zone between the maximum level of high tide and the minimum level of low tide. It is also called the intertidal zone
  • Madrevieja: Alternate route of a river, especially in times of high flow.
  • Riachuelo, chorro, cañada, nacimiento (river birth), zanjón.

IGAC rivers layer

The IGAC provides a layer as part of its geoservices that allows you to identify the rives and streams path, as well as the name of these water bodies. It is recommended that you activate this layer when mapping rivers. In order to do this, you can add in JOSM a WMS under imageries with this URL:

Once there, you can click on "Get layers", and choose "Drenaje sencillo", and finally you can put as name "IGAC drenajes sencillos", that you can use when committing your changes. Using this layer is very useful to map streams that goes internally in the jungle, that cannot be seen from the imagery.

Path alignment

In many cases, we need to align the path of rivers or streams, because they were initially mapped without too much precision. This happened because it was necessary to map rivers massively, but now we need to improve the mapping. The classic way is to move the nodes that are not on the river's path. If the way goes out of the path, then many nodes are added as necessary. However, from JOSM in expert mode, you can press the 'w' - Improve way accuracy.

Rivers modernization

In OpenStreetMap there is a project for river modernization changing the waterway=riverbank tag for natural=water + water=river, but in Colombia this has not been finished. You can help in this project, by following the steps in the project's page.


In order to map trees in Colombia, take into account that the vast mayority of them is broad leaved leaf_type=broadleaved. This makes easier to map natural forests. Some examples of this kind of trees are:

  • Guayabos.
  • Cítricos.
  • Yarumos.
  • Guayacanes.

With a lower quantity, there are needle leaved trees leaf_type=needleleaved. They are the trees with no flat leaves. Some examples of this kind of trees are:

  • Pinos
  • Araucarias.

From the leave cycle of the trees, because Colombia is between the tropics, it does not have sessions. For this reason, the trees are always green, using this tag: leaf_cycle=evergreen.

National Parks

The National Parks are tagged with boundary=national_park. This page describe the ES:Nacional Parks (es).

To draw the parks or get extra information, these sites can be used:

Protected areas

To map protected areas, you can visit Key:protect class y Tag:boundary=protected area.


Main article: es:Colombia/División Política

The tags for the boundaries of the department is:


Ver boundary=administrative.

Inside the boundaries, a point should be mapped and tag it like this:


For other administrative boundaries, you can see the admin_level tag documentation to identify:

  • Regions.
  • Departments.
  • Provinces.
  • Municipalities.
  • Cities, "corregimientos".
  • Localities, communes, "veredas".
  • Neighborhoods.


A very popular construction material for some kinds of buildings is the " bahareque (es)." Even if this material is not by default option in the building:material=* tag, it can be used like  wattle. This is the result of a question about materials.


Main article: Colombia/Guide_for_mapping_education_places

To map places for education, you can visit the previous article.


Main article: Colombia/Guide for mapping religion elements

To map elements associated with religion, you can visit the article dedicated to this.

Common mistakes

Use of the building tag

The building=* tag only represent buildings or constructions. For this reason, using it in residential areas to depict blocks, condominiums, or other elements that are not themself a building, is considered as an error.

Also, it is considered as error to define the perimeter of an area where this area has multiple buildings; for example, the perimeter of a shopping mall that could have parking logs and access ways that give access to the building. Using this tag with the only purpose to make it appear on the map is considered tagging for the renderer. In these cases, consider to use an appropriate landuse=* tag: for residential areas you can use landuse=residential, and for the second case, you can use landuse=retail (see landuse=* for a complete list of common values for this tag).

Buildings where there are not high resolution imagery

In the case that there are not available high-resolution imagery, it is not recommended to create buildings, at least you have another data source at high definition. Remember to only map what's on the ground. To create an idealize version of the map cannot be verified, and it provides a misimpression that the map has a high detail level, when the reality is that the map does not correspond to what is seen from the ground. It is not necessary that the Points of Interest are well drawn as areas; using nodes with the appropriated tags for the Points of Interest on the map is perfectly appropriate, and in fact, it is equivalent to use an area, which concludes that added idealized building is just tagging for the renderer.

Multiple uses

Un edificio de uso mixto
A building with mixed-use: being commercial in the first level, and residential in the upper level.

Do not map shops as area areas or buildings if they have multiple uses (For example, in areas of  mixed-use development). When several shops are in the first level of a building or area, do not tag the whole building or area like a shop. There is a similar case when there are different offices or businesses in the same building. In these cases, map the building like an area area with building=* and add a node node with an appropriated tag for the business or office. Applying tags like building=* or landuse=* with the solely purpose to make a business more prominent is considered as tagging for the renderer.

Tagging errors


In Colombia, as well as in great part of Latin-America, the meaning of this kind of places differs from the common use in OSM and the English-speaking world. Then, tagging the "sites of couples dating" with tourism=motel is a mistake. For these places you should use the tag amenity=love_hotel.

Educational institutions

The tag office=educational_institution does not correspond to the one for education institution (usually "primaria" and "secundaria") that is a term used in Colombia. For this kind of institution use the tag amenity=school.

In a similar way, amenity=college does not correspond to a "colegio". Those should be also tagged with amenity=school.

"Glorietas" and the tag junction=roundabout

Even if the term "glorieta" or "rotonda" is used colloquially for any circular interchanger. the official definition as well as the formal definition of the junction=roundabout tag in OSM are not strict: These require that the traffic in the "glorieta" has priority over the entering traffic, making this last to yield ("la prelación está definida para los vehículos que circulan en la glorieta" —Manual de Señalización Vial 2004). This means the circular intersections that have traffic lights does not comply with this condition and should not be tagged with junction=roundabout. In the terrain, the "glorietas" that does comply this condition should have the traffic signals SP-20 Colombia SP-20.svg and SR-02 Colombia SR-02.svg in the entry ways.

Incorrect translation from Spanish to English of the "banco" word

In the map there are two types of "bancos":

  • A long and usually hard seat. This is mapped as amenity=bench.
  • The financial entities with several branches that offer Automatic Teller Machine - ATM. These are mapped as amenity=bank.

Laundries and dry-cleaners

The two words can be used interchangeably in Spanish, but each has a different meaning in English.

  • Dry-cleaner: establishment where clothes are delivered to be dry cleaned. In some movies they translate it as "Tintorería". It is mapped as: shop=dry_cleaning.
  • Laundry: establishment that offers the self-service washing machine service. The user loads and unloads the washing and drying machines, adds the soap, etc. This type of establishment is less frequent in Colombia. Maps with: shop=laundry.

Register your work zone

If you are going to work on a specific area, it is highly recommended to tell that fact as your working zone. For this, just modify the Colombia Wiki page Category:Users and put your user. This will allow you to exchange information with other mappers.

Resources to map


You can use Bing images to map, because these images have a license that allow us to trace. However, these images could be misaligned to what is drawn on the map. To adjust the images you can use:

  • GPX traces that are already loaded into OpenStreetMap, or even your own GPX traces.
  • The Strava Heatmap map, which allows you to see the intensity of the heat that corresponds to the highways.
  • The already known offsets that are available at : In JOSM you can use the imagery_offset_db plugin.

Data from IGAC - Instituto Geográfico Agustín Codazzi

The IGAC data can be used to map on OpenStreetMap, because they use the CreativeCommons CC-BY 4.0 license, as can be seen from this resolution: Resolución 616 del 01 de Julio de 2020. More information on Contributors#Colombia.

Ideca - Spatial data infrastructure for the Capital District (Infraestructura de Datos Espaciales para el Distrito Capital)

Many of the datasets that the IDECA provides in its portal are licensed under CreativeCommons CC-BY, which can be used to map in OSM.

Detailed edition

If you want to map buildings in details, yo can consult these guides:

Si se quiere hacer mapeo detallado de edificios, se pueden consultar estas guías:



  • Validator.

For JOSM you can use the custom validator for Colombia, as shown in the image on the side.

  • Imagery

Because Colombia offers several maps such as OpenData with a license compatible with the OpenStreetMap - ODbL 1.0, then these maps can be used as layers in JOSM to trace or aid in mapping. Some have been added in the Imagery section of JOSM.


Add this guide to the watchlist

To receive notification when changes are done to this guide to map, it is recommended to have this page in the watchlist. To do this, you just have to click on the star in the upper part: