GPS Maps

I originally intended on creating a page with lots of information on GPS maps info for Central and South America.. After doing a little bit of research, it seemed that this has already been done by a few other over-landers and adventure riders, so I’m not going to re-invent the wheel here..

The folks over at did a pretty good write up of GPS maps for Central and South America:

There are quite a few options on the interwebs for free open source GPS maps, especially for Central and South America. If you don’t own a GPS unit yet read this article for some advice.

A Word (or 60) on Paper Maps: This article is specific to electronic GPS maps, but it is my opinion that nothing replaces a good paper map. Hands down the best on the planet are from Reise Know How. You can buy through US distributors, but to get the most up-to-date versions we recommend that you contact Reise directly. (The shipping from Germany isn’t that much!)

OpenStreetMap (OSM)

The most popular free GPS maps are from OpenStreetMap (OSM). This is the largest open source map ever created. It 150 GB of uncompressed XML data. (Gigs people, Gigs!) OSM is always the best place to start when looking for free GPS maps. There are a few things you need to know.

The easiest way to download OSM is to visit Just select the region you want, enter your email address, and then wait for your maps to be compiled. You will recieve an email when your maps are ready for download. In the email will be a link to a page that will list several different file types. You decide if you want an .exe file (to install in MapSource), a GMAPSUPP.IMG file (to transfer directly to your GPS), or several other options. There is a good forum post with instructions over on Horizons Unlimited.

Alternately, you can download the entire map set via The compressed planet.osm file is currently 22 GB. Yes, even on speedy internet, it will take hours. It is possible to download only one continent or region at a time. See the OSM wiki download page for more info.

Because anyone can contribute to or alter the OSM map file, updates happen constantly. You’ll be surprised at the differences in maps over just a few months. With osm2garmin you can easily download updates when it is most convenient for you. Usually they are a few hundred megs. If you download only selected maps through another site, be sure to revisit every few months and get a new version. You will be surprised at the changes.

If you want to contribute your routes or waypoints download JOSM. This program imports the tracks from your GPS and lets you compare them to the OSM maps. You can decide how to classify the road and what to change or upload.

Other Open Source Maps

Contrary to popular belief, OSM isn’t the only free GPS mapping project out there. Frequently, when looking for that tiny dirt road to that one-horse town, you’ll need to consult more than one map. Here is a list of other free maps for Central and South America. Sometimes they are better than OSM, other times not.

CENRUT (Central America)
This is a great open source map collection specific to Central America. It covers everywhere south of Mexico through Panama. In some places it is more accurate than OSM, in other places it is lacking. I would download with OSM and check your destination on MapSource.

COLRUT (Colombia)
These maps are for Colombia only. They are excellent in the north, on the Caribbean side of Colombia, but as soon as you move East or South it’s probably better to switch to OSM.

PERUT (Peru)
Excellent maps for Peru. These GPS maps are far better than OSM. Highly recommended!

Proyetcto Mapear (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay & Uruguay)
Incredible maps for Chile and Argentina. On par with OSM in terms of major highways. Excellent for finding campgrounds especially in Argentina. Waypoints aren’t as frequent in Chile, where OSM is usually better.

ConoSur (Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay)
A good second set for Chile and Argentina. Reportedly better in Chilean Patagonia than Proyetcto Mapear. Not very useful in Peru or Bolivia. Stick with and OSM in those countries.

TrackSource (Brazil)
The highest recommended free maps for Brazil. Routing and waypoints seem to work well, but we haven’t been to Brazil yet so I can’t give you any first hand experience.

MoGeo (Brazil)
Another set for Brazil. I don’t know how they compare to TrackSource, but they are mentioned frequently.

VENRUT (Venezuela)
The only maps of Venezuela aside from OSM. They are routable and seem to be updated frequently. Sorry, I haven’t been to Venezuela so I can’t comment further.

Proyecto Ecuador (Ecuador)
These maps for Ecuador are pretty freakin’ terrible. I’ve added it to the list here in hopes that a new version is released soon! Until then, stick with OSM.

Bolmap Geogroup (Bolivia)
A very difficult map to find on the web. The link above requires forum registration to download. And it is only a GMAPSUPP.IMG files so it will NOT install to MapSource, only directly to your device. It does seem to be more accurate than both OSM and Viajeros Mapas.

Viajeros Mapas (Bolivia)
At the time of writing all GPS maps for Bolivia are less than great. These are good for a second reference in some remote areas, but usually OSM is better. Also these maps are not routable.

My Navigation setup consists of a BMW Motorad IV GPS (basically a re-branded Garmin Zumo 660) and a 32GB SDXC card with maps and music saved on it.


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