Real (R$) – The Brazilian Currency

Travel Tips

Since 1994, the Brazilian currency has been the Real (plural: Reais), and the symbol is R$.

Because of Brazil’s very high inflation rates in the 1980s and early 1990s, the country had to change currency several times. Brazilians were used to dealing with Cruzeiros until 1986; that year, an economic plan cut three zeros from the bills and changed the currency to Cruzado; a few years later, another three zeros were dropped, and Brazilians were introduced to the Cruzados Novos (“new cruzados”). In 1990, the Cruzados Novos were retired, and the Cruzeiros were back; in 1993, the Cruzeiros lost another three zeros and were turned into Cruzeiros Reais. In 1994, the new currency, called Real, was born after deploying a new monetary plan.

Since 1994, inflation has been maintained at a civilised level (in 2003, consumer prices rose by about 8%; in 2005, the inflation target was around 6%), and Brazilian citizens have had the chance, for the first time in an extended period, to get accustomed to a stable currency.

There are notes of R$2, R$5, R$10, R$20, R$50, R$100, and R$200. Formerly, notes were illustrated with images of historical characters; the problem was, however, that high inflation caused the bills to lose value too fast, and what was supposed to be a homage turned into a mockery. Nowadays, the bills are illustrated with images of Brazilian animals (the feminine character on one side of all paper money represents the Republic).

Coins are available in values of 1 cent (R$0.01), 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, and 1 Real. They vary in size and colour. Since the release of the Real, some coins have been discontinued; click the links to check out the Brazilian coins in current circulation.


Unlike many countries, Brazilians are not used to seeing foreign currency notes; even the American dollar and the euro have limited circulation. Traveller checks are also restricted (usually, foreigners must exchange the currency before paying their bills in Reais). Brazilians have no authorised bank accounts in dollars; Brazilian firms (including hotels) must provide invoices and receipts in Reais.

Currency exchange businesses exist in all major cities. “Casas de Cambio” are establishments that deal only with currencies; a few branches of a few banks also trade currencies, but not at an advantageous rate to the customer.

Brazilian banks have developed an efficient Information Technology infrastructure; holders of major credit cards can use Brazilian ATMs to access their accounts and withdraw cash (other transactions are limited).



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