Where is best for foreign exchange in Rio de Janeiro? Cash, card or traveller cheques? You may have to get money sent to you, is that possible?
Foreign Exchange in Rio – Cash
To start with it’s important to know what today’s exchange rate is, easy to find out on a site like xe.com. The rate you will get is a flat rate so don’t count on getting all that, but it gives you an idea. Then you will have to go to a travel agent or exchange office (cambio). Many are located along the main streets in Copacabana and Ipanema. It’s a good idea to compare maybe two or three of them, a little negotiating never hurts. Don’t count on them accepting odd currencies although they sometimes do, often with terrible rates though. The exchange rates you get at the airport is not good so just change a little bit there. The exchange offices are open commercial hours, closed on Sundays and open only until about 2 PM on Saturdays. When it comes to banks only some agencies of Banco do Brasil offer this service, the rates are not better and the opening hours short so it’s really not worth the hassle.
Foreign Exchange in Rio – Cards
WARNING! As a precaution, always before withdrawing money, see if you can yank the part where you put the card in loose, if you can you have saved yourself from getting your card cloned. There has been quite a lot of this the last few years (mainly in HSBC machines), a little device is placed in front of the slot of the ATM and with the details obtained money has been stolen from accounts. I haven’t heard about anyone not getting the money back from their bank but unfortunately most people get it only when they return to their country showing a police report. This could severely hamper your trip budget so watch out for suspicious ATM´s. If you have internet access to your bank account, always check after you have used the card. It’s best to make your withdrawals of cash daytime to minimize the risk of getting robbed. Keep your eye open for suspicious characters.
Where you should withdraw is a complicated matter, your bank and the configuration of your card decides what banks you can use. Daily rates change and can make one bank better than another just over night. VISA and Mastercard works in almost all bank machines these days, American Express is more difficult. It should say on the machine what cards it accept. Avoid the machines where you insert the card entirely since it might chew it. The machines are normally open from 07h until 22h, the banks open around 10h and close 16h (this varies though). Cards like Exchange, Cirrus and VISA Plus you should be able to use in Banco do Brasil. A good safe way to withdraw money are from the ATM’s that are located in some hotels like Othon, Sheraton, Golden Tulip, Royal Tulip, Tulip In, Copacabana Palace, Radisson and Windsor. Below is a list of banks, click on the links and with a bit of navigation you can find the agency closest to you.
Banco do Brasil The bank that in general offers the best rates. Most of the time has machines that work with international cards. Also accepts withdrawals with VISA card and passport over the counter. Like all Brazilian banks they don’t inform the exchange rate you will get which is bad.
Itaú VISA and Mastercard works.
Bradesco VISA and Mastercard works.
Citibank VISA and Mastercard works. The rates (which they inform) and fees are among the higher.
HSBC The same as with Citibank, works well but they take more of your money. Beware since over tha last years have been quite a few card clone scams in HSBC ATM’s, even at the airport! VISA and Mastercard works.
Foreign Exchange in Rio – Traveller Cheques
Is not a good option since they have high fees. If you have to change them, Citybank and HSBC will provide the service.
Bank Services at the Airports (of interest)
GIG – The International Airport:
Banco do Brasil has a bank with exchange service open everyday 8h/22h in Terminal 1.
ATM’s in Terminal 1: Banco do Brasil, HSBC and 24 Horas. ATM´s in Terminal 2: Banco do Brasil, Citibank and HSBC. Beware of card scams, especially in HSBC machines.
Exchange services in Terminal 1: Banco do Brasil. Exchange services in Terminal 2: American Express
SDU – Santos Dumont Airport:
There are two banks: Itaú and Bradesco
Sending and Receiving money
As for sending money the answer is simple. If you are not a holder of a Brazilian bank account, you cannot send money to other countries. The rules for receiving money constantly changes, easiest is to ask in Banco do Brasil and they will inform you.