Brazil: The Brazilian Real
The Brazilian real (BRL) is the official currency of Brazil. It is subdivided into 100 centavos and the Central Bank of Brazil is the issuing authority. The real replaced the cruzeiro real in 1994. As of April 2016, the real is the nineteenth most traded currency in the world by value. You will quickly notice that the pronunciation of these words is not exactly straightforward - ‘Real’ sounds more like ‘Hey-al’, and ‘Reais’ is ‘Hey-ice’. Other currencies aren’t widely accepted in Brazil, so you will definitely need to exchange some cash to get by.
Most of the banknotes are printed on paper, but some commemorative notes have been made in polymer, so you might notice a difference. Both paper and polymer notes are legal tender. The banknotes have pictures of Brazilian flora and fauna, and are differently sized with bigger notes used for larger values
Payment methods accepted in Brazil
Note, that US dollars are widely accepted by many tourist-oriented businesses in main cities of Brazil, but a good idea is to exchange some local "reales".
Or you can use credit cards, whch are widely accepted at most Brazilian shops and hotels and restaurants. Just keep in mind that you are sometimes able to negotiate a better discount on a room or in a store if you pay cash. The most commonly accepted cards are Visa and MasterCard. American Express and Diners Club are also often accepted. It's a good idea to have at least two cards as some stores and restaurants may only accept one card (usually Visa or MasterCard; Diners and Amex are less common, especially in small towns).
The best way to get cash at a reasonable exchange rate is by withdrawing money from an ATM. Brazil's financial infrastructure is very sophisticated, and ATMs were common here even before they were used in western Europe. You will find them everywhere in Brazil, even in the smallest towns. The only trick is finding one that works with your card. ATMs are linked to a network that most likely includes your bank at home.
Where to exchange money in Brazil?
If you’re uncomfortable about arriving with no Reais in your pocket, then change a small amount at home (some exchange services will need advance notice to allow you to buy Reais so check before you go). You can then exchange the rest of the money you’ll need once in Brazil.
As a general rule, the exchange desks situated in airports are not a great value. They pay high rent to be there, and pass that margin onto the customer in the poor exchange rates they offer. The same goes for exchange services in your hotel.
US dollars are the preferred foreign currency, but also Euros can be exchanged without problems. Cash dollars and euros can be changed at banks exchange houses in most larger cities, but other currencies can be difficult to change outside Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.