Brazil Currency (Brazilian Real History + Facts)

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Brazil’s currency, the Brazilian real (BRL), is the official currency of Brazil and is issued by the Central Bank of Brazil. The real replaced the cruzeiro real in 1994. The currency is subdivided into 100 centavos, and its symbol is R$.

Brazil Real

Brazilian real denominations of banknotes include R$ 2, R$ 5, R$ 10, R$ 20, R$ 50, R$ 100, and the recently introduced R$ 200 note. In terms of coins, the frequently used denominations are 5, 10, 25, 50 centavos, and the R$ 1 coin. Although there is a 1 centavo coin, it is rarely used in daily transactions.

Understanding the Brazilian currency and its exchange rate can be crucial for anyone traveling to or doing business in Brazil. This article provides an overview of the Brazilian Real, Brazil’s official currency. It explores the history and evolution of the Real from its early roots to its current form.

Historical Journey of Brazil Currency

Brazil has a rich history of currency that dates back to the colonial era. The first official currency of Brazil was the real, which arrived with the Portuguese and Dutch around the mid-17th century. 

The name real means “royal” in Portuguese, and it was also the name of the currency in circulation in Portugal from the 1400s until 1911. Since the earliest colonial days in Brazil, the real was in use.

Over the years, Brazil has seen several changes in its currency. The Brazilian currency has been renamed and redefined several times throughout its history. Since 1994, the official currency is the Brazilian real (plural reais, with symbol R$ and ISO code BRL). 

Before the current real, several currencies were in use, including the Portuguese real from the 16th to 18th centuries, with 1,000 réis called the milréis, the old Brazilian real from 1747 to 1942, with 1,000 réis also called the milréis, and the first cruzeiro from 1942 to 1967, at 1 cruzeiro = 1 milréis or 1,000 réis.

In 1967, the cruzeiro novo was introduced, and it was replaced by the cruzeiro in 1970. The cruzeiro was replaced by the cruzado in 1986, which was then replaced by the cruzado novo in 1989. The cruzeiro returned in 1990, but it was replaced by the cruzeiro real in 1993, which was then replaced by the current Brazilian real in 1994.

The Brazilian real has been stable since its introduction, and it has become one of the most traded currencies in the world. 

The real has undergone several devaluations over the years, but it has managed to maintain its value and stability. The currency is widely accepted in Brazil, and it is used for all transactions, including buying goods and services, paying taxes, and investing in the stock market.

History of Coins

The Brazilian real (R$), the official currency of Brazil, is managed by the Central Bank of Brazil and was introduced in 1994 to replace the cruzeiro real. It’s divided into 100 centavos. The real has undergone several historical transformations, originating from the Portuguese real used between the 16th and 18th centuries. 

The modern real was established to stabilize Brazil’s economy through the Plano Real under President Itamar Franco and Finance Minister Rubens Ricupero. Initially pegged at 1 real = 1 U.S. dollar, its value has fluctuated over the years, influenced by various economic policies and global market shifts.

Before the current real, Brazil’s currency evolved from the Portuguese real to the first cruzeiro in 1942, then to the cruzeiro novo, cruzado, cruzado novo, and finally, the cruzeiro real, each replacement attempting to address inflation or economic crisis.

The introduction of the modern real marked a significant effort in economic stabilization, achieving initial success by curbing hyperinflation and fostering growth.

Since its inception, the real’s value against the dollar has seen ups and downs, reaching a high shortly after its introduction, then experiencing depreciation, particularly during financial crises in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The election of presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and later Jair Bolsonaro further impacted its value through their respective policies and market reactions.

The real has been issued in various coin series, with the first in 1994 alongside the currency’s launch. These coins were designed to ease the transition from old currencies and address practical needs in the economy, such as the need for small change. 

Commemorative coins have also been released, celebrating significant events or figures in Brazilian history. In 1998, a second series was introduced with updated designs and materials to reflect Brazil’s culture and heritage.

Despite the discontinuation of the 1 centavo coin, the currency continues to adapt, reflecting Brazil’s evolving economic landscape.

History of Bills

Brazil has two main series of banknotes issued by the Casa da Moeda do Brasil, reflecting the country’s rich biodiversity and technological advancements in currency design.

The first series, launched in 1994 alongside the introduction of the real, featured banknotes in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 reais. To enhance security and reduce counterfeiting, modifications were made over time, including changes in watermarks and the addition of holographic elements on the 20 reais note. 

A notable addition to this series was the first polymer banknote of 10 reais in 2000, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Portuguese arrival in Brazil. This series also introduced banknotes of 2 and 20 reais, showcasing the sea turtle and the golden lion tamarin, respectively.

The second series, announced in 2010, aimed at further enhancing security features and incorporating different sizes for each denomination to assist the visually impaired. This series marked a significant design shift, emphasizing Brazil’s economic growth and the need for a secure currency. 

The designs continued to celebrate Brazil’s natural heritage, with imagery of local fauna like the hawksbill turtle, great egret, green-winged macaw, golden lion tamarin, jaguar, dusky grouper, and the newly introduced 200 reais note featuring the maned wolf.

Each note in this series carries a unique watermark corresponding to its main visual theme, reinforcing its security.

In summary, Brazil’s banknotes not only serve as a medium of exchange but also as a tribute to the country’s environmental richness and a testament to its efforts in combating counterfeiting through technological advancements in currency production.

Inflation and Buying Power of Brazil Currency

If you are planning to travel to Brazil or invest in Brazilian currency, it’s important to understand the country’s inflation rate and how it affects the buying power of the Brazilian Real (BRL).

According to the World Bank, Brazil has experienced high inflation rates in the past, with rates reaching as high as 80% per month in the 1990s. However, in recent years, the inflation rate has been more stable, averaging around 4% annually since 2010.

Despite the recent stability, inflation still affects the buying power of the BRL. Inflation can cause prices to rise, making goods and services more expensive. This means that if you are exchanging your currency for BRL, you may be able to buy fewer goods and services with the same amount of money over time.

To see how inflation has affected the buying power of the BRL over time, you can use an inflation calculator. One such calculator, found on, shows that the buying power of R$100 in 1980 is equivalent to approximately R$1,900 in 2024.

This means that if you were to exchange R$100 in 1980 for goods and services, you could buy the same amount of goods and services with approximately R$1,900 in 2024.

It’s important to keep in mind that inflation can vary by region and industry. For example, according to the Financial Times, food prices in Brazil have jumped 18.5% in the 12 months to March 2022.

This means that if you are planning to buy food in Brazil, you may experience higher prices than in other industries or regions.

Brazilian Real

The second series of Brazilian real banknotes, launched from 2010 onwards, was introduced by the Central Bank of Brazil to incorporate advanced security features and aid the visually impaired with different sizes for each denomination. 

This move aimed to combat counterfeiting and reflect the growing Brazilian economy’s need for a robust and secure currency. The series includes banknotes in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and the newly added 200 reais.

Each banknote showcases Brazil’s rich biodiversity through vibrant colors and themes:

2 reais

The 2 reais note is blue, featuring a wave pattern head of republic on the front and the hawksbill turtle on the back.

5 reais

The 5 reais note comes in purple with plant motifs on the front and the great egret on the back.

10 reais

The 10 reais note is red, displaying plant designs on the front and the green-winged macaw on the back.

20 reais

The 20 reais note, in yellow, highlights the plant’s head of republic on the front and the golden lion tamarin on the back.

50 reais

The 50 reais note is brown and displays the Jungle plants; head of Republic on the front and the Jaguar (Panthera onca) on the back.

100 reais

The 100 reais note, in cyan, depicts underwater scenes and the dusky grouper.

200 reais

The 200 reais note, in grey and features the Savanna plants; head of Republic on the front and the maned wolf on the back.

These banknotes coexist with the older series, symbolizing Brazil’s commitment to economic stability and environmental preservation.

Currency Usage in Brazil

If you’re planning to travel to Brazil, you’ll need to know about the country’s currency. The official currency of Brazil is the Brazilian real (BRL), which is divided into 100 centavos. The Central Bank of Brazil is the issuing authority for the currency.

Is USD accepted in Brazil?

While the US dollar is widely accepted in some tourist areas, it’s still a good idea to have Brazilian real on hand. Many places, especially outside of major cities, may not accept USD or may offer a poor exchange rate.

It’s also important to note that some establishments may only accept cash, so it’s a good idea to carry some cash with you at all times.

You can exchange currency at banks, exchange offices, or at the airport. It’s important to compare exchange rates and fees to get the best deal. ATMs are also widely available in Brazil, but make sure to check with your bank about any fees or restrictions before using them.

When using cash, it’s important to inspect your bills carefully. Counterfeit currency is a problem in Brazil, so make sure to check for security features such as watermarks, security threads, and holograms.

Overall, it’s recommended to have a mix of cash and cards when traveling in Brazil. While credit and debit cards are widely accepted, especially in larger cities, it’s still a good idea to have some cash on hand for smaller purchases or in case of emergencies.

Exchanging Currency in Brazil

If you’re planning to visit Brazil, you will need to exchange your currency to Brazilian real (BRL) to pay for goods and services. Here are some things you should know before exchanging your currency in Brazil.

Where can I exchange Brazilian currency?

There are several options to exchange currency in Brazil. You can exchange your currency at banks, exchange houses, and airports. Banks typically offer better exchange rates, but they may have limited hours of operation.

Exchange houses are open for longer hours, but their exchange rates may not be as favorable as banks. Airports are convenient, but they usually have the worst exchange rates.

It’s important to note that not all banks and exchange houses accept all types of currency. US dollars and euros are generally accepted, but other currencies may not be. It’s best to check with the bank or exchange house beforehand to ensure that they accept your currency.

What to know before exchanging currency in Brazil

Before exchanging your currency, it’s important to know the current exchange rate. You can check the current exchange rate online or at the bank/exchange house. Keep in mind that the exchange rate can fluctuate throughout the day, so it’s best to check the rate frequently.

It’s also a good idea to bring your passport with you when exchanging currency. Some banks and exchange houses may require identification before exchanging currency.

When exchanging currency, be sure to count your money before leaving the bank or exchange house. Mistakes can happen, and it’s better to catch them before leaving the premises.

Finally, it’s important to note that some banks and exchange houses may charge a commission or fee for exchanging currency. Be sure to ask about any fees before exchanging your currency to avoid any surprises.

By following these tips, you can ensure that you get the best exchange rate and avoid any issues when exchanging your currency in Brazil.

Choosing Between USD and Brazil Currency

When traveling to Brazil, you may wonder if it’s better to use the local currency, the Brazilian real (BRL), or stick with your home currency, such as the United States dollar (USD). Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:

Exchange Rate

The exchange rate between the USD and BRL fluctuates regularly, so it’s important to keep an eye on the current rate to make an informed decision. Exchange rates can vary depending on the location and method of exchange.


Using the local currency is often more convenient when traveling. Many businesses in Brazil only accept BRL, and some may not accept USD at all. Additionally, using BRL eliminates the need to constantly calculate exchange rates and can make transactions smoother and faster.


When exchanging currency, it’s important to consider any fees that may be associated with the transaction. Some banks and currency exchange offices may charge a fee for exchanging USD to BRL or vice versa.

Additionally, some credit cards may charge foreign transaction fees when used in Brazil. Be sure to research these fees before making a decision.


To make the best decision regarding currency usage during your trip, consider these tips: If you prefer cash transactions, exchange some USD for BRL beforehand to have local currency available. 

For credit card users, check with your bank for foreign transaction fees and opt for cards that waive these charges. When uncertain, seek advice from locals or your hotel regarding the most convenient payment methods for goods and services.

Overall, the decision to use USD or BRL depends on your individual circumstances and preferences. Consider the exchange rate, convenience, and fees when making your decision.

Cost of Living in Brazil

If you’re planning to move to Brazil, it’s important to understand the cost of living in the country. The cost of living in Brazil is generally lower than in many other countries, including the United States. However, the cost of living can vary depending on where you live and your lifestyle.

Housing is one of the major expenses in Brazil. The cost of housing can vary depending on where you live in the country.

In major cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the cost of housing is generally higher than in smaller cities and towns. Renting an apartment in Brazil can cost anywhere from R$1,000 to R$5,000 per month, depending on the location and the size of the apartment.

The cost of food in Brazil is generally lower than in many other countries. You can find a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat at local markets and supermarkets. Eating out at restaurants can also be affordable, with a meal at a local restaurant costing around R$30 to R$50 per person.

Transportation costs in Brazil can vary depending on where you live and how you get around. Public transportation, such as buses and trains, is generally affordable, with a single bus or train ride costing around R$4. Taxis and ridesharing services like Uber are also available in major cities, but can be more expensive.

The healthcare system in Brazil is a mix of public and private healthcare providers. Public healthcare is available to all residents of Brazil, but the quality of care can vary depending on the location. Private healthcare is also available, but can be more expensive.

Other expenses, such as entertainment, clothing, and personal care products, can vary depending on your lifestyle. Brazil has a variety of shopping malls, movie theaters, and other entertainment options that can be affordable. Clothing and personal care products can also be found at local markets and supermarkets at affordable prices.

Overall, the cost of living in Brazil can be affordable, but can vary depending on where you live and your lifestyle. It’s important to research the cost of living in the specific location you plan to live in and create a budget that takes into account all of your expenses.

Don’t Get Scammed Tips

When traveling to Brazil, it’s important to be aware of the potential scams that you may encounter. Here are some tips to help you avoid getting scammed:

1. Use ATMs in Secure Locations

When withdrawing money from an ATM, make sure that it’s located in a secure area. Avoid using ATMs that are on the street or in remote areas. Criminals may install skimming devices on these machines to steal your card information.

2. Be Careful with Your Valuables

Pickpocketing is a common problem in Brazil, especially in crowded areas. Make sure that your valuables, such as your wallet and phone, are secured and not easily accessible to thieves. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or carrying large amounts of cash.

3. Be Wary of Taxi Scams

Taxi scams are common in Brazil, especially at airports and tourist areas. Make sure that you only take licensed taxis and agree on a fare before getting in the car. Avoid taxis that don’t have meters or drivers who try to negotiate a higher fare.

4. Don’t Fall for the “Broken Meter” Scam

Some taxi drivers may claim that their meter is broken and try to charge you a higher fare. If this happens, insist on paying the normal fare or get out of the taxi and find another one.

5. Be Cautious with Street Vendors

Street vendors may try to sell you fake or counterfeit goods, such as designer bags or watches. Be cautious when dealing with street vendors and only buy from reputable stores.

6. Keep Your Documents Safe

Make sure that your passport and other important documents are kept in a safe place, such as a hotel safe. Avoid carrying your passport with you unless it’s absolutely necessary.

By following these tips, you can help protect yourself from scams while traveling in Brazil. Remember to always be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts.

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