What is the currency of Brazil?
The currency used in Rio is the Brazilian "Real" (pronounced ray-all) or plural "Reais" (pronounced ray-eyes), and is denoted as R$.
What are the denominations of the Brazilian Real?
The Brazilian Real has similar denominations as the US dollar. One Brazilian Real is made up of 100 centavos. Paper bills are issued between 1 Real and 100 Reais. There is a 1 Real coin that is very popular in Brazil, so you should keep some of these in your pocket or wallet at all times.
Where is the best place to exchange money?
Exchanging foreign money into Brazilian Reaias is easy in Rio. If you don't exchange money before arriving to Brazil, you can do so at Bank ATMs, Cambios (currency exchange stores), or at travel agencies. You find the exchange rates posted in the windows of most banks and Cambios or just ask at counters.
There are many Cambios located on the main avenues of Rua Visconde de Piraja in Ipanema and in Copacabana along the Avenida NS Copacabana.
You should avoid exchanging money at the airport: the lines are long and they give you a very poor exchange rate. Hotels will often exchange your money at the front desk; and while the rates offered at hotels are generally better than those at the airport, the market for hotel exchange rates is significantly less competitive than those at Banks and Cambios. Pay attention to ATM fees and credit card foreign exchange fees. Some credit cards do not charge a fee. Do you homework.
Do I need to check with my bank before using my credit or debit card in Rio?
Yes. Before you leave home you should call your bank or credit card company to confirm the procedures and fees charged for international ATM withdrawals. A service fee may also be charged by the Brazilian bank, but there are a few International Banks located in Rio, like Citibank, Banco Santander, and HSBC.
Can I use my credit card to make purchases in Rio?
Yes. Again, you should let your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling to Brazil before leaving home, and you should inquire about fees and other charges. Taxi cabs in Rio do not accept credit cards.
What is the preferred credit card in Rio?
In general, VISA and Mastercard and American Express are widely accepted cards; however there are a few places that only accept cash or may not take all cards. Its a good idea to ask.
Can I use an ATM machine on the street?
You should avoid ATMs on the street and withdraw money at either banks or Cambios. You should also be sure to avoid ATM machines where you have to insert your entire card, as the card can get eaten by the machine. You should also avoid exchanging money late in the evening, though ATMs usually turn off at 11pm. If you are not taking money out of a Bank ATM, please be sure to cover your PIN number with your hand and avoid taking out large quantities of cash at one time. This might cause you to incur more in fees, but for safety reasons, it's a good idea. An ATM that allows credit card withdrawals will be denoted by a small credit card emblem on it.
Can I use a traveler's check to pay for things during my stay in Rio?
We generally would advise against this: using traveler's checks in Rio can be a hassle and they are not commonly accepted in stores or restaurants. You can, however, use them to convert money at Banks or Cambios. You can actually get a pretty decent exchange rate for traveler's checks at Cambios and Travel Agencies, as they will often "hold" the checks before cashing them as a hedge against foreign exchange rates.
In a pinch, you can usually pay taxis and other vendors in US Dollars or in Euros. They will figure out an exchange rate against the cost of the service in Reais on the spot. Don't expect a bargain when doing this.
Can I exchange money before I leave for Rio?
Yes. Exchanging money can be easily done online, using an on-line exchange service. You can expect rates that are around 10% less than the official current exchange rate, and you will typically incur a $15 overnight delivery fee. There is generally a minimum exchange of around US $ 200 and a maximum of US$250. Visa and Mastercard are the most common way of doing this, and the charge is typically treated as a cash advance as opposed to the way your credit card company treats general merchandise charges.
What about taxes while I'm in Rio?
The city of Rio de Janeiro charges a 5% accommodations tax that is collected by the hotel operators. The amount will be added to your hotel bill. Many hotels will add an additional 10% service charge to your bill. In Rio de Janeiro, there are no taxes on retail items.
Do I need an entry visa?
Travel from many countries to Brazil requires an entry visa. Please consult with your local consulate for specific details and to apply for your Brazil travel visa . It can take anywhere from three to ten days to get your visa (depending on your city and how you order it), so DON'T wait until the last minute!
What type of electrical outlets do they have in Brazil?
In Rio de Janeiro, 110V AC, 50 Hz, two-pin plugs are pretty standard. If adapters are required, many stores sell them.
Pay attention to voltage when plugging something in. Some older buildings have 220v.
Is there an open-container policy in RIo?
No. Alcohol is very widely available in Rio, and you are free to walk the streets with open containers. HOWEVER, Rio has some of the most strict policies in the world when it comes to DWIs. There are traffic stops all over the city. We cannot stress this enough: NEVER drink and drive.
Is it safe to drink the water in Rio?
While many suggest it is safe to drink tap water in Rio, we would highly recommend sticking to bottled water. Many hotels filter their water, but there are still microbes and bacteria that can be unfriendly to tourists. Your hotel will tell you if the tap water is safe, but we still encourage you to drink bottled water whenever there is any doubt. Bottled water is widely available and inexpensive, so it is much better to be safe than sorry. The vast majority of restaurants serve only bottled water, either carbonated (com gas) or non-carbonated (sem gas).
Will my cellphone work in Rio?
As with most foreign destinations, travelers should bring an unlocked GSM quadband phone with them. SIM chips are widely available at most newstands, and Pharmacies. Using a local SIM chip will save you lots of money in roaming fees. You can get your local SIM chip through the major Brazilian cellphone companies such as Tim, Oi, Vivo, and Claro. Be careful with your smartphones, especially when streaming music and videos! Data roaming can be very costly. Check with your wireless service provider before your trip.
Will I have access to the internet in Brazil?
WiFi is widely available in most Rio Hotels and is free on the beach at Copacabana.
How should I dress while I'm in Rio?
We highly encourage you to dress the way the Cariocas (Rio natives) dress. For the most part this will be shorts, a t-shirt and sandals. No fancy shoes. Havaianas are extremely popular. Even at the fancier restaurants and nightclubs, jeans and sneakers is very standard. Dress in Rio is very light and casual.
Do I need to keep my immigrations papers?
YES! Make a photostat of your passport and always carry that with you leaving the original one in a safe place in your hotel room or apartment. When you arrive to Brazil you will be fill out immigrations and customs documents. At immigration they will hand you a receipt with your passport. Do not lose this piece of paper! You will be required to surrender this piece of paper to immigration upon exiting the country. If you don't have it you will be detained at the airport until you are cleared by the Federal Police, and possibly fined, before being allowed to depart. A good idea might be to keep this document in the safe at your hotel.
Do I need immunizations before traveling to Rio de Janeiro.
There are no immunizations required for travel to Rio de Janeiro. However, if you will be visiting the Amazon, there are inoculations required. Specific vaccinations vary according to your travel plans. You must consult with your physician or a travel health clinic at least 4-8 weeks prior to the date of your departure. You can check the official website for the Center for Disease Control (CDC.gov) for more details.
Also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)