Money Matters for Brazil
For changing notes, whether US dollars, Euros, British pounds, Argentineans pesos, Bolivian bolivianos or others, you can use the Cambio booths at airports and in post major cities, or change money at your hotel if it has the facilities. It is also a good idea to store some Foreign Cash in your luggage, away from the rest of your valuables, perhaps US$100 or so if you can. This way you will always have a little money for emergencies.
Banks in Brazil require a little local knowledge if you do not want to waste a whole day trying to get your hands on some Reais. Traveller’s Cheques do not give good rates, aren’t widely accepted, and even if you do manage to find the offices to change them, you will likely waste a good few hours. Banco do Brasil will change them but it requires some organisation in order to coordinate your visit with the brief opening hours.
ATM’s are definitely the best bet, but they have Brazilian quirks too. Firstly, foreign cards are only accepted in the machines marked 24 Horas, which should have a sign or sticker containing all the symbols for Visa, Mastercard, Amex and others somewhere on the front. HSBC banks are usually a safe bet, and perhaps the most reliable for foreign travellers in Brazil. Banco do Brasil, Bradesco and Santander are also useful although you may need to try more than one. Other banks such as Itau and Caixa are not at present.
Another important point for Brazil is that the ATM’s do not dispense more than R100 after 10pm. This is a rule designed to discourage overnight kidnappings! Just because your favourite cash machine is marked ’24 Horas’, it doesn’t mean that you have access to all your funds 24 hours a day.
You should always take care when withdrawing cash from Brazilian banks. Put it in your wallet or purse immediately, hide it away in a bag or deep pocket and leave the machine. Don’t hang around cash machines counting money. It is also best to withdraw money during office hours where possible, when security will be present.
Finally, once you’ve found a machine that works for you, it will probably work in a slightly different way to back home. To withdraw money, you usually need to insert your card and withdraw it almost immediately to begin the process. After going through all the buttons, you need to insert and withdraw your card a second time for confirmation. It causes problems for foreigners at times, but at least you are unlikely to leave your card in a Brazilian cash machine. After getting used to this system though, you may do exactly that the next time you visit an ATM in the next country that you visit!