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 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 minor streets through neighborhoods. Examples in Bogotá: Calle 86A, Calle 90.
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 Other minor roads. Use this kind of highway only for new roads mapped from armchair.

Never assign this kind of highway to an already mapped highway with other type.

Please view the Spanish discussion.

Other minor roads that are not residential.
highway=service Access roads, normally in private areas, such as the internal ways of a condominium, a club, or an enterprise area (like Corabastos).
highway=track Roads used mostly for agricultural or forestry reasons, that 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 represent the surface of 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.


  • 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/Señalización

Traffic signs are mapped with a node node at the location of the sign, using the tag traffic_sign=* according to this traffic sign list (es). More important than mapping the sign itself is to apply the corresponding tags to the objects 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 affected highways.

For more information about 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. If you have doubts, please follow the link of the related tag for more information about it. You can also find useful information at traffic_sign=*.


In cities, addresses in Colombia follow the format:

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

For example:

Calle 72 # 7-12

Alternatively, the number sign (#) is abbreviated as No., but we do not use that here. In theory, number1 refers to the previous intersecting street, and number2 is the distance to that intersection. In the previous example, the address is on Calle 72, 12 meters away from Carrera 7. Of course, the real world does not fit the model so nicely, but that is the general idea.

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

Outside of cities where streets aren't numbered, addresses can be expressed by stating the nearest milepost and the name of the road, e.g. Km. 25 Autopista Medellín. Alternatively, a higher approximation can be given using 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.

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 can also check this page: Geocoding_naming_formats_and_challenges#Colombia.

Postal codes

Post codes were introduced recently in Colombia. Although not widespread used yet, it is worthwhile to add them to OSM. Post codes have six digits, the first two being the department, the next the two postal zone, and the last two the postal district. All post codes and their district boundaries can be found here. They can be added to the address using: addr:postcode=*.

Postcodes Colombia by department
Departments Postcode
Bogotá D.C. 11xxxx
Amazonas 91xxxx
Antioquia 05xxxx
Arauca 81xxxx
Atlántico 08xxxx
Bolívar 13xxxx
Boyacá 15xxxx
Caldas 17xxxx
Caquetá 18xxxx
Casanare 85xxxx
Cauca 19xxxx
Cesar 20xxxx
Chocó 27xxxx
Córdoba 23xxxx
Cundinamarca 25xxxx
Guainía 94xxxx
Guaviare 95xxxx
Huila 41xxxx
La Guajira 44xxxx
Magdalena 47xxxx
Meta 50xxxx
Nariño 52xxxx
Norte de Santander 54xxxx
Putumayo 86xxxx
Quindío 63xxxx
Risaralda 66xxxx
San Andrés y Providencia 88xxxx
Santander 68xxxx
Sucre 70xxxx
Tolima 73xxxx
Valle del Cauca 76xxxx
Vaupés 97xxxx
Vichada 99xxxx

There are postal codes with more digits that correspond to the blocks (manzanas) in a postal district, but they should not be used in OSM.

Mass transit bus

Main article: Colombia/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 many major cities in Colombia, certain roads are closed to motorized traffic on Sunday mornings for the citizens to bike, walk and exercise (see  Wikipedia).

Use conditional restrictions to tag these restrictions. For example:

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

In Bogotá, for example, the roads that are closed on Sunday morning can be found on the website of the IDRD [1].

One can also think about creating a relation between all the ways that make up that section of the route. For example, all ways that make up the route of Ciclovía on Calle 147 in Bogotá are in a relation. More information about relations and how to make routes using them.


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).


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.

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 road sign SP-20.svg and SR-02 Colombia road sign SR-02.svg in the entry ways.

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.

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: