Frequently asked questions about Nominatim

1. The address of my search results contains far-away places that don’t belong there.

Nominatim computes the address from two sources in the OpenStreetMap data: from administrative boundaries and from place nodes. Boundaries are the more useful source. They precisely describe an area. So it is very clear for Nominatim if a point belongs to an area of not. Place nodes are more complicated. These are only points without any precise extend. So Nominatim has to take a guess and assume that an address belongs to the closest place nose it can find. In an ideal world, Nominatim would not need the place nodes but there are many places on earth where there are not precise boundaries available for all parts that make up an address. This is in particular true for the more local address parts, like villages and suburbs. Therefore it is not possible to completely dismiss place nodes. And sometimes they sneak in where they don’t belong.

As a OpenStreetMap mapper, you can improve the situation in two ways: if you see a place node for which already an administrative area exists, then you should link the two by adding the node with a ‘label’ role to the boundary relation. If there is no administrative area, you can add the approximate extend of the place and tag it place= as well.

2. When doing reverse search, the address details have parts that don’t contain the point I was looking up.

There is a common misconception how the reverse API call works in Nominatim. Reverse does not give you the address of the point you asked for. Reverse returns the closest object to the point you asked for and then returns the address of that object. Now, if you are close to a border, then the closest object may be across that border. When Nominatim then returns the address, contains the county/state/country across the border.

3. I get different counties/states/countries when I change the zoom parameter in the reverse query. How is that possible?

This is basically the same problem as in the previous answer. The zoom level influences at which search rank Nominatim starts looking for the closest object. So the closest house number maybe on one side of the border while the closest street is on the other. As the address details contain the address of the closest object found, you might sometimes get one result, sometimes the other for the closest point.