I need an Open Political Map

That’s a really good example of the political shenanigans that can result in large international organisations (such as the UN) pretending that certain places “aren’t really countries”.

Searches for China fail too.
Guatemala worked though.
Anyway, back to my dream map.
Here’s how it would look like:

So you’re probably asking, “Dan, it looks marvelous! How did they do that?”
Well, all they did was have, village, city, and county boundary layers available in their layer selection menu. (Hold on, there’s a big EN button. Maybe I can make the same map in English. One moment please… Nope, they don’t even have half as many layers in their English version, so never mind.)

So all that is left is how to put this right into https://www.openstreetmap.org/ !
Well, here we go!:
Yup, right in the Layers menu, under “Enable overlays for troubleshooting the map”,
there would be a new [x] Administrative boundaries checkbox! Yeah, I know, now you’re saying, “Well there are village, city, county, etc. boundaries. How are you going to deal with that? See, your plan is falling flat on its face.”
To that I answer: a new pair of “A+” and “A-” buttons would appear on the edge, so the user could quickly switch from admim_level=…6, 7, 8, 9…, without even having to open up the Layers panel each time!

Sure, now you’re saying “It says ‘for troubleshooting the map.’ I don’t think you are troubleshooting the map. I think you just had “trouble” “shooting” your holiday snaps when you couldn’t tell your friends if you took them in Frostbite Falls or neighboring Fergus Falls, because the boundary waved all around the map.” OK, well shoot me.

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As mush as like and use Id, editing administrative boundaries would be unworkable. The limited zoom in which editing is allowed is too small for most use cases. It would require a bit of work to add what your proposing without much benefit. You may try pitch the idea to Rapid. They found a way to solve restricted edit zoom by switching to a different render.

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Editing? I’m not talking about editing.
I’m talking about browsing. I want to see clearly where boundaries are. That’s all.
“Openstreetmap, with boundaries that make sense, without needing glasses”
The above screenshot that I marked in magenta is for
https://www.openstreetmap.org/, not

Here’s the deal today. I am at

The location is [GPS 37.635416 N 122.397455 W] OpenStreetMap

But in fact I’m not using the website, I’m using these layers inside this app.

Okay, I’m staring at this:

And it’s the usual very frustrating question: is the political entity on the other side of the words South San Francisco, just simply an unincorporated area, or is it some other suburb that’s name has now crawled away as is the habit in this particular “carto” layer. Yes we could go around the map hoping that will find words name is crawled to. But let’s instead try something different: finding a layer that has all the info right there using different colors, and big names: a political map!

Sure, if we were using the osm website we would simply do a query.

However we’re in a app where we depend on switching to different layers.

Therefore it be really great, it would be really wonderful, if there was a source of tiles, with colors indicating, what political entities we were looking at!

Then we could tell if the land on the other side of the border pictured here, is, unincorporated land, or actually belongs to a different suburb!

(Yes, a query finds that it is in unincorporated San Mateo County. But that’s beside the point.)

Better Mapit query.

… then I would suggest that you create one. Maps don’t get created by forum posts, or github or mailing list posts either.

Many different sorts of maps exist, but the most documented process is probably the one to create raster tiles, such as you can see at openstreetmap.org. I’d start here, and then I’d change the style to a simpler one that shows boundaries, perhaps based on this one. Then tailor it to your needs.


Sorry, my mistake. That would be nice to be able toggle political boundaries on the default


Realistically, for all sorts of project- and people- related reasons (that don’t have much to do with data or technology) that’s not going to happen - “OSM Carto” is what it is, and our experience from the last 9 years or so suggest that it is not going to change.

However, to be clear - the OP here isn’t using OSM’s “standard layer”, but those map tiles in another app. It’d be perfectly possible there to overlay boundary data over the top of OSM Carto tiles.

Here is an example of a map that shows boundary data as a separate layer. If anyone wants to create a map like that, they can - but they won’t be able to do it by just writing forum posts.


Nice! All you would need to do would be extend the coverage of
world wide. Then people could put the tile URL formula into their e.g.,

files, and then finally people would have an overlay to see OSM boundaries clearly!

Actually all that is needed is a transparent boundaries layer.

Also, as such apps cache the maps, it won’t download a tile again for several months, saving your server work. (As far as people using other ways to view the tile, well maybe they will request it again.)

Well nearly, since it’s not actually me that wants the political map of South San Francisco - all YOU would need to do be to create that overlay. :slight_smile:

Actually, there’s a bit more work needed, since the information displayed along the boundary needs improvement to make it more useful.


Oops, I forgot somebody has to pay to maintain the website. Anyway, if anybody makes a transparent layer then it probably should look like:

For raster tiles for the planet for just boundaries, I’m guessing about $1 per day for hardware costs.

Initial server setup would be a couple of hours for someone familiar with Linux, then maybe a day or so if they are as yet unfamiliar with osmium etc.**

You could spend as long tinkering with the map style as you’d want to spend, but you’d need to spend at least 1/2 day here I think.

I’m assuming for boundaries you don’t need to worry about “minutely updates” - you’d just reload every now and again when something important changes.

Regular maintenance would be no more than a few minutes a fortnight for Linux updates, checking that certificate updates are happening as they should, and making sure that your hosting provider and website name provider have up to date credit card details so that you can pay their bills on time.

** all of these time costs will be more if you need to learn more about things as you go, but the resources to do that learning are definitely available.


Hmm, it seems the trend is for all maps to end up distributed chopped up into layers, instead of one single style.

Perhaps sooner or later the same will happen with OSM boundaries…

(In an old .AQX file I almost found
the Admin Boundaries Layer I had been dreaming of.
Alas, it was deprecated. I.e., it doesn’t work any more.)

<source id="OSMOMSAB" layer="true" deprecated="true">
  <name>Admin Boundaries Layer</name>
  <copyright>OpenStreetMap contributors</copyright>
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Hey @jidanni, check out




There is also layers.openstreetmap.fr - Tuiles pour contrôle de données / Tile service with dataa checks which is recommended to users in USA to check for “more correct” (or “less correct,” it is true!) admin_level=* values on boundary=administrative + admin_level=* tags.

Actually, this works anywhere on Earth. The particular rendering is zoomable and pan-able, make sure to check the boxes for admin_level=8,9,10 if you want those, too.

(Looks great… I think. I can’t really tell on a cell phone. I’ll have to warm up my Desktop.)
Update: Lucky zoom level 12 only, else 404 not found tiles · Issue #472 · osm-fr/infrastructure · GitHub .

Yes, when mapping, for both touch-typing reasons (versus “thumbing a touch screen” as many do with smartphones) and for display reasons (this rendering is beautiful on my 5K Retina display, even as I realize not everybody has such a pretty option as their video) I recommend a “desktop class” machine. Warm it up, have a look, enjoy.

People do use inappropriate tools to do things, so while you could dig a hole with a nail file, a shovel works a whole lot better. Mapping? Desktop. Sure, “out in the field,” a smartphone can work in a pinch to do certain, more-limited mapping tasks, but it’s like using a teaspoon to fill the sugar bowl.