The Brazilian currency is called “real” (plural:
reais). It is divided in cents (“centavos”) and represented as R$XX,YY. Notice
that cents are separated from reais by a comma. Its value vis-à-vis foreign
currency suffers large fluctuations. During 2015, the exchange rate oscillated between
US$1 = R$2,60 and R$4,10, or 1 Euro = R$2,90 to R$4,60.
According to the Big Mac Index, in July 2015 the
effective exchange rate was US$1 = R$2,80.
In July 2017 you may expect an exchange rate not
far from R$3,00 for one American dollar. If you are lucky, one American dollar
may correspond to R$4,00. That is unpredictable.
For people coming from North America or Europe, the
price of Brazilian goods and services is usually regarded as very cheap. The
same quality of hotel room you can get in the United States by US$200 or in
Europe by €200 can be obtained in Brazil by about R$200 to R$300 – that is,
nearly half or one third of the value. You can find excellent inexpensive clothes
and shoes. Food in Brazilian restaurants is also cheap for international
standards, besides being plentiful.
Most payments, in Brazil, should be made with
Brazilian money. However, you do not need to bring Brazilian cash with you. It
is easy to exchange Euros, American Dollars and British Pounds in Brazil. Check
the current exchange rate a few days before you travel to Brazil. Banks are the
best place to exchange money.
Brazilian airport money exchanges usually have a
bad exchange rate and they charge a fee to exchange money. For amounts less than US$100, this fee might
be 10% of the amount you are exchanging. For larger amounts of money (say over US$500),
this fee will only be a fairly small percentage of the amount exchanged. The
only time you might want to consider using an airport money exchange in Brazil
is if you do not have an ATM card, and you need money for a taxi or bus. If you
do desperately need to exchange money at a Brazilian airport, ask the help desk
where you can find “Banco do Brasil”
(a public Brazilian bank).
Alternatively, you can withdraw Brazilian money
from cash machines (ATMs) using your international bank card. Never use ATMs on
the streets: use those inside banks, shops or shopping malls, for safety
reasons. One important thing to note is that for security reasons most bank
ATMs stop dispensing cash after 8pm, although Banco 24 Horas in large
supermarkets will dispense until 10pm. Airport ATMs are the only ones that
dispense cash all hours.
Credit cards are usually accepted at shops,
restaurants and hotels, without any additional charge. It’s a good idea to
inform your credit-card issuer about your trip before you leave so that the
card isn’t stopped for uncharacteristic use.
Tipping rules: at some places – especially
restaurants – a 10% tip is a rule. The restaurant bill will usually include
this tip. Keep in mind two things: firstly, you are expected to pay this and if
you don’t it will cause enormous offence; secondly, you are not expected to pay
any more than this.
Brazilian people seldom give tips to hotel
personnel, but foreign travelers are sometimes expected to do so. You might be
willing to give a R$10 to R$20 tip to hotel people who carry your luggage or
who do some other special service. Taxi drivers do not usually expect tips, and
the price is shown at the taximeter. However, it is usual to round off the
value (for instance: you could pay R$20 if the taximeter indicates R$18). In
the case of other services, such as hairdresser, cosmetology, manicures and
pedicures, a 10% tip to employees (not to the owner!) will be fine.