Brazil currency and travel insurance

The best way to carry Brazil currency and how to get the best value Brazilian real, plus travel insurance tips.

Brazil currency

If you're travelling to Brazil, you're going to need Brazilian real. So what's the best way to access your cash and how can you get the best deal for 'real'?

Currency: Real (BRL/R$) (Pronounced "hey-ow". Plural reais, "hey-ice".)

Important: Tell your bank about your travel plans two weeks before you leave. Card activity in a foreign country could be mistaken for fraud and you could find your account frozen.

What side of the road to drive on. When to arrive at parties. How to avoid the Zika virus. - download the Brazil travel guide.


Cash machines are easy to find in Brazil, and even small villages will have at least one. Some ATMs may not recognise certain foreign cards, so it's worth bringing a couple of different options along with you. Travellers tend to have the most success with ATMs from the major banks HSBC and Banco do Brasil. Remember you'll be charged a transaction fee and a conversion fee for using your Australian card.

Tip: ATMs often close between 10pm and 6am for security reasons, or they limit the maximum amount you can withdraw at night. Always be careful when you're withdrawing money: cover the keypad as you enter your pin and try to use machines that are inside banks rather than on the street.

Credit cards

Credit cards are widely accepted in shops, restaurants, hotels and even in some taxis. Remember your bank will probably charge additional fees for using your card overseas. If you're worried about fees, check with your bank to see if they have a better card available for travellers. Credit card skimming is a common problem in Brazil, so don't let your card out of your sight when paying bills.

Money changers

Currency exchange desks are easy to find in tourist areas, just look for the "cambio" sign. You can also change money at banks and some hotels. Exchange rates will likely be higher at the airport than in town, but you may want to pick up a few reais as soon as you land, or even before you leave Australia, just for peace of mind.

Travellers' cheques

Travellers' cheques aren't so common these days, and you'll have trouble finding many places that can cash them. If you aren't using travellers' cheques, foreign exchange booths and major banks are your best bet.

Travel money cards

A travel money card isn't a great option for Brazil as there are no cards available from Australian financial institutions that can be loaded with Brazilian real (or any other South American currency). Of course, this may change in the lead-up to the Olympics, so if you're particularly keen on using a travel money card for security reasons, check what's available a few weeks before your departure. Alternatively, you could also load a travel money card with Aussie dollars, but you could be charged conversion and/or withdrawal fees, similar to a debit or credit card, as well as the initial card issue fee.

Tip: Carry at least two credit/debit cards and more than one cash currency (e.g. US dollars and Brazilian real). Split your money and cards between separate bags. That way if you lose one, you have a back-up.


VAT (value-added tax, like our GST) varies from state to state, but you needn't worry about it too much as the number you see on the price tag or bill will always be the price you pay (there's no sneaky sales tax added, like in the US). A 10% service gratuity is sometimes automatically added to restaurant or hotel bills – otherwise, it's courtesy to leave a tip. Unlike some other countries, VAT can't be claimed when leaving Brazil.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Buy insurance at the same time as you book your trip, that way you'll be covered if you have to cancel for some reason before you go.

Ask your insurer about exclusions that may affect you, including extreme sports such as jet skiing and bungee jumping, motorcycle or scooter accidents, as well as pre-existing medical conditions. If you're planning to drive a car, check what level of cover your travel insurance offers, so you don't end up paying extra for unnecessary insurance from the car rental agency.

If you're pregnant, your travel insurance may not cover you if you contract the Zika virus in Brazil.

Be aware that anything that happens to you while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is unlikely to be covered by insurance.


  • Keep a print-out of your travel insurance details with you at all times while on your trip.
  • Share your insurance details with family or friends before you leave.