The currency in Brazil is the Real, or Reais in Portuguese. In September 2010 the exchange rate was about 1.70 Reals to the US Dollar.
Brazilian banks operate Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm.
In order to open a bank account in Brazil several documents are required. First of all you’ll need:
Obtaining a CPF number will require you to visit to a branch of either the Banco de Brasil or Caixa, pay a small administration fee and fill out some forms. Eventually you will be asked to visit the local tax office (Receita Federal) before the number can be issued. You do not need to be a permanent resident of Brazil in order to get a CPF number although it makes the process easier.
The major banks in Sao Paulo are:
Brazil's currency is the real, often written R$. One real is made up of 100 centavos. Banknotes come in many different colors with different animal featured on each. There's a green one-real note (hummingbird), a blue two (hawksbill turtle), a violet five (egret), a scarlet 10 (macaw), a yellow twenty (lion-faced monkey), a golden-brown 50 (jaguar) and a blue 100 (grouper fish).
If you have some cash or traveller's checks to exchange, most banks or exchange offices casas de câmbio are able to complete this transaction. Banks tend to be have slower, more bureaucratic procedures, but better exchange rates (except for Banco do Brasil which charges R$40 commission for every traveller's check transaction). Cash and traveler's checks should be either in US dollars or euros for easy exchange. Amex is the most easily recognized traveller's check.
Debit and credit cards can be used for most purchases and to make cash withdrawals from ATMs and banks. Visa is the most widely accepted card, followed by MasterCard. Amex and Diners Club cards are also useful.
Credit card fraud is extremely common in Brazil. Keep your card in sight at all times, especially in restaurants.