Adventures of a foreigner in the south of Brazil.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Living on plastic

Not for people with weird tastes, in spite of the title. However, at some point you will need to pay for something in Brazil. Now I have never seen the point of traveller cheques, and I have never used them, no matter when and where I was travelling. You will not need them in Brazil. I would recommend at least one credit and one debit card, the first for paying wherever possible, the second for getting cash from ATMs. The debit card should have Cirrus and Maestro, and credit cards from Mastercard and Visa are accepted almost everywhere. (UPS does not accept Visa.) If the credit card has a PIN and you can get cash on it that is a bonus. Don't set the credit limit too high in case the card is stolen.

To prepare for this eventuality you should only ever take the credit card and some cash with you. You will be able to pay for almost everything with the card and still have a fallback for getting cash when it is lost or stolen. Crime is a problem in Brazil, and underestimating it is stupid.

The Banco do Brasil and HSBC have automatic teller machines that take Cirrus/Maestro cards. I am not aware of any other banks that have them. In particular, all Brazilian banks that I know only accept their own cards. You can find ATMs that are usable for you in big supermarkets and shopping centres and in airports. In coming to the country a good strategy is to get some Reales before taking the flight and then some more at the first Brazilian airport. Do not assume that your surroundings are safe just because it is broad daylight and be particularly careful when leaving a bank.

For your daily shopping there are two big supermarket chains: Nacional takes credit cards, Zaffari does not. They, however, take debit cards with Cirrus and Maestro. Panvel pharmacies take credit cards unless you want to recharge your mobile phone card. That requires ready money. Most stores will take credit cards, as will almost all bars, restaurants and discos.