One of the hottest discussion topics around Battlestate Games’s hardcore shooter Escape From Tarkov is “What map should beginners start with?” If you’re new to Tarkov and have asked that question yourself, this guide will shed some light on the subject. As a beginner in Escape From Tarkov, you should be playing on two maps – Customs and Interchange. These two maps provide the best beginner experience due to their simplicity and ease of extraction. Below are more detailed outlines for each of these maps, including common looting areas, valuable keys, and overall tips for each map.
Customs is the map where many beginners start their journey in Tarkov, and it’s easy to see why. This map has a simple, rectangular layout, with PMCs spawning on both the east and west sides. Depending on which side you spawn on, your extracts will be on the opposite side. From there, it’s all about making your way to the other side of the map and looting up as you go. There are even optional extracts along the way that can make raids even easier!
Sub Station – If you spawn on the east side of the map, Sub Station is a great place to start your raid. It has five containers, including a medical box, toolbox, and three cases, as well as loose weapon mods. Also, this location is on a hilltop, so you get a good view of the rest of the map.
Old Gas Station – This location serves as a possible extraction if you’ve spawned on the west side of the map, but it’s always worth checking regardless of your spawn. This is because inside of the gas station, there is a loose loot spawn on the table that can reveal seemingly any item in the game, including very valuable items worth millions of rubles. On top of that, there is a crate out in front of the station, and a duffel bag out back that will usually have some loose loot on the ground beside it. Watch out for scavs, though, as this location will often have 2-4 scavs lurking around.
Dorms – This is one of the most notorious locations in Tarkov, and for good reason. This location contains the most valuable loot room on Customs – Marked Room – and is also a possible spawn location for Rashala, one of Tarkov‘s scav bosses. Because of this, this location receives high PMC traffic and is very dangerous. I would only advise attempting this location once you’ve obtained a marked key, as well as some experience with the map.
Customs Office – Customs Office is the most valuable looting location on the west side of the map, but you’ll need a customs office key to access it. Once inside, it contains a duffel bag, three PCs, a jacket (great for keys spawns), and a safe, as well as some loose loot.
Best Keys for Customs
- Marked key – As stated above, this key will give you access to the highest value loot room in Customs – the marked room in the three-story dorm. This room is known for frequently spawning storage containers, which are some of the highest value items in Escape From Tarkov. This room also frequently spawns high-value weapons. The marked key can be obtained from the flea market for around 30-40k rubles, making it one of the best cost-to-value keys in the game.
- Customs Office Key – On top of the loot that is available in the Customs Office, this location is also used for multiple quests, making this a must-have key for Customs. Plus, you can grab this key off the flea market for only around 10k rubles – a must-buy if you ask me.
- Factory Exit Key – The last key I’ll mention is the factory exit key, although this key isn’t valuable for its loot. What this key does offer, however, is access through the guard building in front of the warehouse. This allows you to circumvent most of the map and makes extracting far easier. Also, this key can be used to unlock two additional extractions and a locked room on Factory. This key can be purchased off the flea market for around 150k rubles.
Tips for Customs
- Watch out for sniper scavs – Sniper scavs are very dangerous if you aren’t expecting them, but they are also very easy to deal with once you know where they can be. There are only four possible sniper scav spawns, so it doesn’t take long to learn where to expect them. Refer to the map above for those locations.
- Learn stash locations – Stashes are hidden loot containers scattered throughout the maps of Tarkov. There are 16 stashes on Customs, and learning where they are can quickly bolster your profit from this map in particular. Here’s a helpful link with all of the stash locations on Customs.
Admittedly, Interchange is a step up in difficulty from Customs due to the greater frequency of heavily geared PMCs, but I still believe this is a great map for Tarkov beginners due to its simple spawn-to-extract cycle and abundance of solid loot. Similar to Customs, players spawn on two opposite ends of the map, and your extraction will be on the opposite side of the map from where you started. In the center of the map, taking up the majority of the map’s space, is the Ultra Mall. This mall is split into five parts: Oli (hardware store), Idea (furniture store), Goshan (Grocery), the shopping mall made up of two stories of many small stores, and the parking garage underneath. Once you become more familiar with the map, the center of the mall has some of the most valuable loot and intense firefights in all of Tarkov.
Oli and Idea – These two ends of the mall are very similar, and they are the bread and butter for Tarkov beginners on this map. Both locations are full of valuable loose loot on shelves. So, depending on which corner of Interchange you spawn on, you’ll want to rush into the closest of these two locations, grab up some loose loot, and then head back outside and make your way around to your extract. While the inner workings of the mall can be complex, this loot path is safe, simple, and profitable.
Power Station – This building, situated in the northeast corner of the map, is a nice location with plenty of loot. Among the loot is a total of five jackets, which are sure to net you at least a couple keys with each visit. This location also has an optional one-use extract, costing just 3k rubles to use.
Shopping Mall – This central part of the Ultra Mall is home to two floors of many small shops. Some of the most valuable of the shops here include Kiba (Weapons), Techlight (tech items and tools), and Emercom (medical supplies). Also, you may find Killa, another of Tarkov’s scav bosses, roaming around this area of the map. These things combined make this area of the map dangerous and confusing to navigate, and I would not recommend trying to explore it when you are still new to the game.
Best Keys for Interchange
Interchange is not as key-dependent of a map as Customs is, especially for newcomers who just want to hit up Oli or Idea. However, there are definitely still some keys that are worth grabbing once you want to really master this map.
- Kiba Keys – Yes, you need two keys to enter the Kiba weapons store – key to Kiba store outlet and key to Kiba outlet grate door. While I wouldn’t recommend going to this location as a beginner in Tarkov, it has some of the best loot on the map. This store has two weapon crates, cash registers, as well as possible spawns for weapons, weapons mods, ammunition, grenades, and even armor. These keys are pricey, however, costing approximately 1.2M rubles and 100k rubles, respectively.
- Key to Emercom Medical Unit – Another great key for Interchange, this key gives you access to three medical bags, a jacket, a possible LEDX spawn, a possible graphics card spawn, and loose loot spawns of medical items. This key will run you about 80k rubles.
Tips for Interchange
- Watch out for exit campers – Exit campers tend to be more common on this map due to the fact that there are only two open extractions. If you’re expecting these campers, however, you can increase your odds of escaping or even catch the campers off guard and score a few more kills before extraction.
- Bring a flash light – Flash lights are very useful on this map, as the inside of the mall is dimly lit in most places. Attaching a flashlight to your weapon makes spotting loose loot or the occasional player lurking in the shadows much easier.
It should be noted that Battlestate Games currently has a small rework for the lighting and extractions on Interchange planned, so both of these tips may only be useful for a short time.
If you’d like some tips about trading as a beginner, check out my article on the 10 best trades for beginners in Escape From Tarkov.