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/Postcode boundaries

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

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


8 Answers 8


This question has been converted to Community Wiki and wiki locked because it is an example of a question that seeks a list of answers and appears to be popular enough to protect it from closure. It should be treated as a special case and should not be viewed as the type of question that is encouraged on this, or any Stack Exchange site, but if you wish to contribute more content to it then feel free to do so by editing this answer.



The Bureau of Statistics provides most of the information:

  • Country boundaries should be produced by merging all the state boundaries (below) into a single polygon feature.
  • State level boundaries are available.
  • The states can be geographically disaggregated in a number of ways - perhaps the most similar to county boundaries are Local Government Areas (LGAs).
  • To find the area of cities, the standard dataset to use is the urban centres and localities digital 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.
  • the updated 2011 datasets and census results are available via the Data Packs section of the ABS site, which requires free registration.

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.

  • http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/people_and_communities/Geographic-areas/digital-boundary-files.aspx 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.


  • 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.

Great Britain

For a wide range of free data for Great Britain, visit the Ordnance Survey website: https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/opendatadownload/products.html 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.

European Union

Eurostat provides several geo-datasets for EU and a few more countries for free for non-commercial use: Countries, NUTS, Communes, LAUs (municipalities) and coastlines: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/gisco/geodata/reference-data/administrative-units-statistical-units


You could also use the OSM Overpass API (as a web-based tool: https://overpass-turbo.eu/) to query OSM data and export it.

There is also a list for the differing country specific admin levels and their meaning in the OSM wiki

I used the wizard for constructing the query. Here is an example of the UK with the corresponding query:

overpass-turbo example


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.


I would suggest looking here:

Public Geodata for the UK

The following links are to sources of geo-spatial data and is intended for the use of researchers who cannot afford to buy expensive datasets. Hence, all the datasets are either free or cost under £50.00. Whilst we have included low cost data, it is not our intention to advertise or support companies selling commercial data. Please note the specific licensing restrictions to the data, as specified. In general the data is for non-commercial use only.


Boundary-Line is a specialist 1:10 000 scale boundaries dataset. It contains all levels of electoral and administrative boundaries, from district, wards and civil parishes (or communities) up to parliamentary, assembly and European constituencies.


Geofabrik provides you with geodata that matches your needs. We mainly work with free data from the OpenStreetMap project and use the lean OpenStreetMap tools for cartography of all kind. Our download server has free and current geodata from OpenStreetMap in various formats.


http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/a0118e/a0118e05.htm 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 Data.gov.uk. 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.


This website seems to be perfect for what I need right now.


Later on I can look up licensing for postcodes in the UK and elsewhere.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.