A road map or route map is a map that primarily displays roads and transport links rather than natural geographical information. It is a type of navigational map that commonly includes political boundaries and labels, making it also a type of political map.
In addition to roads and boundaries, road maps often include points of interest, such as prominent businesses or buildings, tourism sites, parks and recreational facilities, hotels and restaurants, as well as airports and train stations.
Road maps come in many shapes, sizes and scales. Small, single-page maps may be used to give an overview of a region's major routes and features. Folded maps can offer greater detail covering a large region. Electronic maps typically present a dynamically generated display of a region, with its scale, features, and level of detail specified by the user.
oad maps can also vary in complexity, from a simple schematic map used to show how to get to a single specific destination (such as a business), to a complex electronic map, which may layer together many different types of maps and information – such as a road map plotted over a topographical 3D satellite image (a viewing mode frequently used within Google Earth).
A road atlas is a collection of road maps covering a region as small as a city or as large as a continent, typically bound together in a book. Spiral binding is a popular format for road atlases, to permit lay-flat usage and to reduce wear and tear. Atlases may cover a number of discrete regions, such as all of the states or provinces of a given nation, or a single continuous region in high detail split across several pages.
Road maps often distinguish between major and minor thoroughfares (such as motorways vs. surface streets) by using thicker lines or bolder colors for the major roads.
Printed road maps commonly include an index of cities and other destinations found on the map; smaller-scale maps often include indexes of streets and other routes. These indexes give the location of the feature on the map via a grid reference.
Inset maps may be used to provide greater detail for a specific area, such as a city map inset into a map of a state or province.
Often a distance matrix is included showing the distance between pairs of cities. Since it is a symmetric matrix, only the upper triangle is displayed.