It was my fault. I waited until the last minute to exchange travelers cheques into Brazilian reais. I stopped first at the American Express office, only to find that it was a bank holiday. It wasn’t the anniversary of anyone’s birthday, death, nor independence. It was just a day to close the banks – because they work so darn hard here counting money and developing new ways to make the financial lives of the people more . . . interesting.
I shouldn’t complain – and I’m not – though most other people seem to. Since I arrived I’ve been able to withdraw increasingly more money per bank machine transaction. In early 2008 I was limited to 300 pesos, then they increased it to 600, sometimes 700 and now, although they started charging a fee, I am allowed to withdraw 1,000 pesos per transaction. I guess they trust me now and appreciate me spending all that money in their country.
Since I arrived here, there is less of a problem getting monedas and although a lot of establishments still seem to have a problem giving change for a 100 peso note – it’s not quite as bad as it used to be. Although you still need coins for the bus – you don’t need the exact amount because the machine gives change. Maybe it always did – but in our ever-present need to complain I was under the impression from others that I was expected to have exact change. Some bus routes have tickets sellers at the busy stops.
So, I’m to travel to Brazil without reais and take my chances that I’ll find a place to make the exchange once I get there.