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After learning about the US Census's TIGERLines datasets I've working with the following layers, from the USA data

  • Country boundaries
  • State boundaries
  • County boundaries
  • City boundaries
  • ZipCode boundaries

What I am trying to find is the equivalent (where appropriate) of the same data for the following countries.

  • United Kingdom (hello Ordinance Survey :( )
  • New Zealand
  • Canada
  • Italy

Is there any free administrative boundaries available as shapefiles for these countries?


locked by PolyGeo Feb 8 at 6:00

This question's answers are a collaborative effort: if you see something that can be improved, just edit the answer to improve it! No additional answers can be added here

This is a "List of X" style question, and should really be marked as community wiki... – JasonBirch Jul 31 '10 at 5:16
@Pure.Krome Hi, where did you get all the shapefiles for City and Zip, I have the state and county one. But not able to find all the city and Zip code. – Kraken Nov 18 '13 at 6:16

18 Answers 18

up vote 36 down vote accepted

For non-commercial use, try GADM. For small scale global dataset try Natural Earth.


We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

I was going to suggest the VMAP level 0 data, but GADM looks to be more current and have better detail. Add in the high quality Natural Earth data, and those two datasets will get you a long way for small-scale mapping. – wwnick Jul 30 '10 at 4:21
Natural Earth pretty much superseded VMAP level 0 – maning Jul 30 '10 at 4:38

For the UK try (Hello Ordnance Survey :) )


We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

+1. Specifically BoundaryLine which has administrative boundaries at all levels and is free – MarkJ Jul 17 '11 at 21:20

This wiki has the most comprehensive (reviewed by data quality) list of freely available data sources that I have yet to come across.

OpenStreetMap has a lot of data.

If isn't necessarily authoritative, but if you are just trying to get data.


Try (Natural Earth is a public domain map dataset available at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110 million scales)


We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

For Australia, the Bureau of Statistics provides most of the information:

Country: Country boundaries should be produced by merging all the state boundaries (below) into a single polygon feature.

State: State level boundaries are available.

County: The states can be geographically disaggregated in a number of ways - perhaps the most similar to county boundaries are Local Government Areas (LGAs).

City boundaries: To find the area of cities, the standard dataset to use is the urban centres and localities digital boundaries.

Zipcode boundaries: Zipcodes (or postcodes as they are known here) are more difficult to model. Because they are based on the rules by which Australia Post deliver the post, they are rather fuzzily defined. The free option approximates postcodes as the census collection district level, and is available for 2006 from the ABS.

Edit: the updated 2011 datasets and census results are available via the Data Packs section of the ABS site, which requires free registration.


The UN has a dataset for many (but not all) countries, known as the Second Administrative Level Boundaries data set project (SALB). The dataset is standardized in terms of the international border, metadata profile, spelling, coding scheme, editing protocols used and can be downloaded at no cost.

However, as it is licensed under the creative commons by-nc-nd license it cannot be used for commercial purposes.

No more available. – Jonatas Walker May 28 '15 at 12:02

Another answer to get around the single hyperlink restriction:

Also check out free spatial data from the DIVA-GIS website for world administrative boundaries and other interesting features:


For a wide range of free data for Great Britain, visit the Ordnance Survey website: There's a product description page too (but I can't provide another hyperlink sigh)

The Boundary-Line dataset has a number of administrative boundary layers (though why they couldn't provide a simple, continuous, GB county boundary dataset in it is beyond me). However, there's a lot of good stuff on this site, including a GB post code gazetteer.


For Canada, Administrative Boundaries are available at GeoBase. Note that these boundaries are actually Administrative Boundaries and not coastlines (particularly relevant for the north coast).

The Political Boundaries layer in the GeoGratis North American Atlas has nice physical boundaries for North America and surroundings, as well as U.S. States and Canadian Provinces.

share collects all freely available electoral district boundary shapefiles for Canada. More boundary data is available through our API: – James McKinney Nov 30 '12 at 0:55

New Zealand: Koordinates - This site has free and pay data for New Zealand and various international areas (like Florida!). A range of free layers, boundaries, urban areas, land use, digital elevation, coastline, rivers etc... and topo maps, contours, aerials for some areas - pay for these. Excellent interface and system for ordering downloads.

Also for New Zealand, is the Statistics Department's set of administrative boundaries. They've got regions and territorial authorities (the rough equivalent of counties), urban areas (roughly city boundaries) and much more, including meshblocks, which most statistical data is tied to.


The Office for National Statistics opened an Open Geography Portal in May 2013, which contains a wide range of UK boundary shape files. The 'Download Boundaries' section is one option, but I find it's handier to use the 'Browse' section, then Digital Boundaries. Within this section, choose a geography type from the left panel, and select Details in the right panel. (Generalised files are smaller but less detailed than Full files. Clipped files are clipped to the coastline.)

Finally, scroll to the zip download, which is among the Transfer Options links.

share has a decent comparison I recently stumbled across.

Note that VMAP0 seems to be the standard and is widely considered to be freely licensed, but there's actually a little asterisk that asserts the administrative boundaries remain copyright ESRI 1998. Several supposedly libre online datasets seem to point back to that vintage of ESRI data CD.


For UK Data MySociety has converted much of the Ordnance Survey OpenData to WGS84 (lat/lng) and most is in ESRI Shapefile format so can be loaded in GIS

CodePoint Open (Postcodes for Great Britain not Northern Ireland)

NSPD > It now has Northern Ireland Postcodes (BT Postcodes) that can be also be used.

BoundaryLine has most of the boundaries you are looking for.

If used please state: This data contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2010. Code-Point Open contains Royal Mail data © Royal Mail copyright and database right 2010. The NSPD Open also contains National Statistics data © Crown copyright and database right 2010.

Donate if you wish, if you find the service useful


The Census geography boundary hierarchy is really good for small area UK work and freely available, either by order directly from the Office for National Statistics or as download from It comprises of Output Areas, Lower-layer Super Output Areas, Middle-layer Super Output Areas (roughly 10,000 population, broadly equivilent to electoral wards). Outputs from the ONS, government departments & agencies use these divisions as standard now rather than administrative boundaries that are prone to political reorganisation and not so uniform in population size.


Commercially GfK geomarketing has a good quality of data available in differetnt formats.

In Europe they are specilized in postal code maping.


The "Large Scale International Borders" and other datasets provided by (The US Department of State, Humanitarian Information Unit) are quite good for continent-wide overview maps.


for Italy, National Geoportal WFS Catalog

"Unita' amministrative regionali, provinciali e comunali"

Regional, provincial and municipal administrative units


FAO uses a lot the GAUL dataset which contains shapefiles at level 0 (country), 1 and 2. Metadata information are available here:

Access constraints requires "Formal permission to do something"


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