As a recent traveler to Peru, I got the following message today from the U.S. State Department about the Peru National census recently, which shows four things:

1. Peru takes their census very seriously.
2. As a good rule of thumb, you want to be sober when you fill out any census form.
3. If the Peruvian population must stay in their homes, who’s driving those trains and shuttle buses?
4. Timely notices are valuable. This one is not timely.

It would be kind of fun to be there on census day just to see how quiet the country would be.

Sunday, October 21, 2007 is National Census Day in Peru. Peru’s National Statistics Institute (INEI) will conduct a nationwide census on Sunday, October 21 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Embassy has been informed that all public establishments (markets, supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants, gas stations, and all commercial establishments) will be closed during census hours. All cultural activities, sporting events, church services, and access to museums and archeological parks will be suspended during census hours. In addition, the sale and/or excessive consumption of alcohol is prohibited during the census hours. The government of Peru has directed that the population of Peru remain in their homes during census hours. U.S. citizens in Peru are subject to Peruvian law and must comply with any legal restrictions imposed by the government.

Foreign tourists may travel freely throughout the country, but may be required to present passports and proof of census participation upon request. Tourists may be asked by hotel staff serving as census volunteers to gather information similar to that gathered in the United States (age, place of birth, occupation, etc. of household members). We have been assured that there are special provisions in place for tourists and those in transit through Peru to provide shorter answers. All official INEI volunteer census takers should have identifying badges and credentials. Tourists should receive a sticker and/or “Cédula” directly from either from census workers after they have been counted or from their hotel reception desks before venturing outside from hotels and residences.

International and domestic flights are expected to maintain normal schedules, but ground transportation and water transportation may be severely restricted during census hours. Intercity buses and taxis will not be in operation, however taxis to and from the airport in Lima to hotels are expected to be in operation for tourists with passports and airplane tickets and/or boarding passes. Those who travel by personal vehicle during census hours may be stopped and asked to return to their residences and/or hotels by local officials. We are advised that the tourist trains and shuttle buses to Machu Picchu and the World Heritage Site itself will most likely be accessible and open for foreign tourists with valid passports and tourist visas.