Malaria causes significant morbidity and mortality worldwide, including countries with mainly imported malaria. In developing nations, scarce resources lead to inadequate diagnostic procedures. In affluent countries, poor familiarity with malaria may cause clinical and laboratory misdiagnosis. Microscopy of Giemsa-stained thick and thin films remains the current standard for diagnosis. Although it has good sensitivity and allows species identification and parasite counts, it is time consuming, requires microscopical expertise and maintenance of equipment. Microscopy with fluorescent stains (QBC), dipstick antigen detection of HRP2 and pLDH (Parasight-F, ICT Malaria Pf, OptiMAL), polymerase chain reaction assays and some automated blood cell analysers offer new approaches and are reviewed here, with emphasis on clinical relevance and their potential to complement conventional microscopy, especially in countries with imported malaria.