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Public-images-osm logo.svg destination
Zeichen 430-20 - Pfeilwegweiser zur Autobahn, StVO 2013.svg
Destination when following a linear feature
Group: Properties
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesmay be used on waysshould not be used on areasmay be used on relations
Status: de facto

The key destination=* names the objects that are reached, when a linear feature is being followed. The key is used in the road system as well as on waterways.

Destination of roads

In the road system, the key destination=* describes the content of signposts or ground writing indicating the names of the locations that the tagged way is heading to. Thus navigation systems can refer to road signs that the driver actually sees.

Should I use destination=* keys or a destination_sign relation?

The destination=* implementation works when all inbound ways into a junction point indicate the same outbound destinations. This makes destination=* a popular choice among editors for: motorways and other one-way type highways; on waterway relations (waterways are by definition are one-way, their direction of flow); and for simple intersections.

At intersections where the indicated destination=* depends upon the direction the driver is arriving from (most typical at two way intersections or roundabouts), this implementation cannot provide enough detail to be unambiguous for navigation, because multiple destinations apply for the same outbound way. In these cases, the destination_sign relation must be used to provide the necessary granularity.

To indicate the physical location of the signpost itself, use information=guidepost.


Key variation Valid for Description
destination Way Describes the destination of the complete OSM way. Worthwhile only if used in combination with oneway=yes.
destination:forward Direction Describes the destination of all lanes of the OSM way, running in the same direction as the way itself.
destination:backward Direction Describes the destination of all lanes of the OSM way, running in the opposite direction as the way itself.
destination:lanes Lane Describes the destination of each lane of the OSM way. Worthwhile only if used in combination with oneway=yes.
destination:lanes:forward Lane Describes the destination of each lane of the OSM way, running in the same direction as the way itself.
destination:lanes:backward Lane Describes the destination of each lane of the OSM way, running in the opposite direction as the way itself.

Destinations per lane

For details about the :lanes suffix, see

Main article: Lanes.

Often the destinations of a road differ from lane to lane. To specify those for every lane, destination:lanes=* is used. To tag a way with different destinations for each lane we do the following:

If the way is oneway=yes, then:

  • Use the key destination:lanes=*.
  • Visualize the road in the direction of the OSM way.
  • Add the lane-values to the value, starting with the leftmost lane and ending with the rightmost. Separate each lane-value with a | (vertical bar).

If the way has both directions, then:

  • To describe the lanes in the direction of the OSM way use destination:lanes:forward=*. Visualize the road in the direction of the OSM way.
  • To describe the lanes in the opposite direction of the OSM way use destination:lanes:backward=*. Visualize the road in the opposite direction of the OSM way.
Automatic Tag Correction in JOSM

forward and backward

Important note: If an entry and an exit share one OSM way, because they're not build separated, tag the destinations with destination:forward=* and destination:backward=*. If you change the direction of the OSM way pay attention also to exchange those destinations-tags, too! JOSM shows a warning message and suggests to exchange destination:forward=* with destination:backward=*. iD swaps the tags automatically upon reversing the way.

Where to use?

Use destination=* together with highway=* on pieces of highway after the position of the signpost or ground writing. For details, see also the examples.

Danger of confusion

Do not mistake with highway=motorway_junction:

  • It’s only used on motorway-exit-nodes.
  • In its key name=* the official name of the exit is told, but in some countries this is on every exit for this junction the same one. So this name may be identical for every exit of this junction and therefore may not give a proper indication of the destination.

Do not mistake with Relation:destination_sign:

  • This relation is designed for any sign showing in any direction (very flexible). In principle it would be possible to use the relation for every destination sign, but it brings all drawbacks for relations with it (in opposite to a simple tag like “destination”).

Do not mistake with designation=*:

  • It is the official legal classification of a road or path and has nothing to do with the information about where a way goes to. Please don’t confuse to the similar writing.

Do not mistake with direction=*.

Software that uses this feature

Rendering in MapFactor Navigator Free
Rendering in Osmand

destination=* is used in the following navigation apps:

CheckAutopista [4] is a Quality Assurance tool that can show name=*, exit_to=* or destination=* tags on a selected motorway. It helps detect missing data.

The Mapbox Directions API and OSRM support the destination=* and destination:ref=* tags. The Mapbox Navigation SDK displays these tag values in the step table and turn banner and also reads aloud the tag values.


The value of the destination tag should be the contents of the sign, as it would be read from beginning to end. Different destinations on the same sign are separated with semicolons. (See examples below.)

This key is only for values which are explicitly indicated on signposts or ground writings.

Whether abbreviations (as they exactly appear on a sign) should be used in a destination tag is being discussed and is disputed, on this tag's talk page. Numerically speaking, by a ratio of 20:1, the editing consensus on whether to use abbreviations that appear on signs is no, and to use the same standards as given in Exit Info and as specified in the OSM standard Names: ("Don't do it": If the name can be spelled without an abbreviation, then don't abbreviate it").

Further Details

There are various tags to describe further details of destination signs:


Note: There is guidance and numerous United States specific examples of use of the destination tag (where it applies to Exit Signage), at Exit Info .

Signpost No. Link Ctry Tag(s) Where to tag? Occurrence Note
Schild Nr. 430 430 DE destination=Berlin Directly at the highway=motorway_link Signpost at a motorway entry Additionally it is possible to set ref=A 2 on the highway=motorway.
Schild Nr. 448 448 DE destination=Düsseldorf-Benrath At the following highway=motorway_link Signpost at motorway junctions Additionally it is possible to set ref=26 on the highway=motorway_junction.
Schild Nr. 332 332 DE destination=Mainz;Wiesbaden At the following highway=motorway_link Signpost at motorway exits Multiple destinations for the same exit lane are separated with a semicolon.
BAB3 Koelner Ring bild2.jpg DE
At the highway=motorway directly after the signpost Signpost at motorways The destinations for each lane are separated by |
S1 Knoten Eibesbrunn Wegweiser.jpg AT
At the highway=motorway directly after the signpost Signpost at motorways
Canada-bilingual-exit-example.jpg CA destination=New Marylanddestination:street:en=Regent Street South

destination:street:fr=Rue Regent Sud

At the following highway=motorway_link Signpost at motorway exits Usage of destination:street=* in two languages

Source of some images:

See also

Destination of waterways

On a Waterway, the key destination=* is used to describe which body of water the tagged object flows into. It considers the natural flow of water, where a stream flows into a river, the river into a larger river, until eventually the last river reaches the ocean.

The key can be used either on the linear water feature (river, canal, stream) itself or, if it exists, preferably once on the waterway relation.


The Mississippi river relation is tagged destination=Gulf of Mexico.