Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Maps and Charts

Maps vs Charts

Maps and charts are two very different things. People do not pay much attention while using the terms, but they are different in their details, different in terms of the information that is provided by them, and most importantly different in practical use. They cannot be used interchangeably.

Charts can be considered as a type of map. They are information provided on a sheet of paper in either tabular form as in historical charts or a hydrographic chart which is used especially by seamen. A chart is used to project a body of water or a part of a body of water and the land which is surrounded by a portion of water or the land which the water surrounds. For example, United States Coast Survey charts.

Charts have been used mainly for oceanic designations as they provide added information. They provide accurate and detailed coastlines and also include details like tidal levels, water forms, etc. which are necessary for navigation.
A chart is considered as a working document. The navigation charts plot the whole course of the journey; they also include information like vessel’s bottom clearance, draft, any obstructions which might prove hazardous, and also the maneuvers which will be required at a certain point.

Maps are graphical representations of a succession of acts, events, or states as in historical maps. They are also the representation on a flat surface of the Earth or a portion of the Earth visualizing the relative positions of different parts. Maps could be celestial sphere representations also. Maps could be of a country, a survey map, map of a journey, etc.
While charts are used mainly for bodies of water, maps usually have been used for geographical designations; they mainly represent land forms with respect to the sea level. They provide information of the surface path with no other information about the condition of the path, etc.

Maps are considered static documents. They usually provide a predetermined course, for example, a road. What type of vehicle should be used for traveling is not included in maps. They also provide information which might help one to change the predetermined course by choosing intersections of their choice, etc.


1.Charts are used to represent portions of water or bodies of water with land surrounding them or land surrounded by them while maps represent the geographical features and relative positions.
2.Charts give more detailed information about the bodies of water, tidal levels, area underneath the water’s surface, etc. while maps do not provide information which is not visible by the naked eye.
3.Charts are used to plot a course. Maps do not help in plotting a course; they show a predetermined course like a road.

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  1. thanks i have learned the differences b/t charts and maps
    .It will help me in my course in navigation

  2. Wrong! Looks at aeronautical CHARTS – need not show coast or sea but are charts. It is the type of information presented that determines whether it is a chart or map.

    • You are correct in that aeronautical charts are charts. I don’t believe the author’s examples were meant to be all inclusive. Just because he didn’t mention aeronautical charts doesn’t mean they aren’t included in that category.

    • Charts expire, maps don’t. Easy.

  3. Aviation charts may not have any bodies of water shown at all!

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