Guide for mapping in Colombia

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

Please do not use data that violates people's privacy or data from military or police zones.



Before mapping and editting in Openstreetmap it is good to read the OSM beginners guide ,the good practice guide, get to know the editing standards and conventions, and the limitations of armchair mapping.

Tags of roads in Colombia

Street names

  • For street names use name=*. Do not use the tag ref=* for the name.
  • Always use the full name of the streets. Do not use abbreviations.
  • For streets that have more than one name use the semicolon as a separator.
  • Always use the new street name. If you know the old name can record it with old_name=* label


name=Calle 77
name=Carrera 19A
name=Diagonal 45
name=Avenida Chile; Avenida Calle 72
name=Autopista Norte; Avenida Carrera 20  old_name=Avenida 13

Street classifications

Although street classifications are well documented in Map_Features#Highway, the physical infrastructure of many roads is the same in Colombia and are therefore mapped according to their administrative authority.

  • highway=motorway. These roads simply do not exist in Colombia. Even roads with local names containing the word "autopista" (motorway) do not meet the requirements for motorways. Roads tagged with this tag are therefore in error and should be fixed.
  • highway=trunk. National trunk roads ("troncales" and "transversales") are defined by the Colombian Transport Ministry as primary roads which start at international border crossings and connect major state capitals and/or ports. Some mappers have extended the definition within cities to encompass major divided highways that have at least two lanes in each direction, traverse the entire city or connect major cities and are maintained either by Invias or through a state concession. Examples in Bogotá: NQS, Calle 80, Autopista Norte, Avenida Eldorado, Avenue of the Americas, Avenida Boyacá; in Medellin: Via Las Palmas (segment where it is a divided highway).
  • highway=primary. National highways which are not defined as trunk. They connect major cities are are maintained by Invias (or a concession). Within cities, some mappers have extended this definition to encompass main roads interconnecting neighborhoods across the city. Examples in Bogotá: Carrera 7, Calle 68, Circunvalar, Avenida Cali.
  • highway=secondary. Main roads connecting large towns which are maintained by state government. In urban areas, main streets in local areas. Examples in Bogota Carrera 15, Carrera 11, Calle 85, Calle 92, Calle 94
  • highway=tertiary. In rural areas, these are roads connecting municipalities. Within cities, thee are minor streets through neighborhoods. Administered by the municipalities. Examples in Bogotá: Calle 86A, Calle 90

Use highway=*_link (e.g. highway=trunk_link) for roads (sliproads/ramps) leading to/from a road from/to a road.

  • highway=unclassified. Minor roads, often unpaved, that connect hamlets and administered by the municipalities. (“The word 'unclassified' is a historical artefact of the UK road system and does not mean that the classification is unknown; for roads where the classification is unknown to the mapper use highway=road.” (See highway=*).
  • highway=living_street. No legislation exists in Colombia for comparable roads in other countries. Use of the tag in Colombia is therefore discouraged in the interest of maintaining tag semantics across countries.
  • highway=track. Roads used mostly for agricultural or forestry reasons, that a 4 wheel vehicle or farm tractor could travel on. NOTE: according to comments on Telegram Colombia, tracks are used for all "minor bad roads", not just those described here.
  • 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

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


In cities, addresses in Colombia follow the format [street name] # [number1] - [number2], e.g. Calle 72 #7-12. The number sign (#) can be alternatively abbreviated as No.. 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's 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 milemarker 25. Since the addr=* schema doesn't quite work for these cases, addr:full=* can be used instead.

Additional 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 then 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=private 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.


Postcodes were introduced recently in Colombia[3]. Although not widespread used yet, it is worthwhile to add them to OSM. Postcodes contain six digits, the first two being the department, the next the two postal zone, and the last two the postal district. All postcodes and their district boundaries can be found here. They can be added to the address using; addr:postcode=xxxxxx.

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

Mass transit bus

Public transport should be mapped using the general guidelines.

  • 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:
name=Portal 80


Generally the global 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 then a marking on the road.

For cycleways that lie separated (by grass, kerb etc.) from the road there are two conventions in use at the moment 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 can cost more time then the second option.
  • Add cycleway=track to exciting road.

Often cycle ways have different directions then 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 [4].

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 .

Be careful with the name tag. The name of the rivers does not include the word Rio. For example: name=Rio Magdalena is incorrect. Better is:


Nor is it necessary to label in another language e.g. name:en=Magdalena River. It is a mistake because:

  1. The word river does not belong to the name
  2. Magdalena is written the same in Spanish and in English.

They also may include other labels to add important information.