Cholangiocarcinoma is the most frequent biliary malignancy. It is difficult to diagnose owing to its anatomic location, growth patterns and lack of definite diagnostic criteria. Currently, cholangiocarcinoma is classified into the following types according to its anatomic location along the biliary tree: intrahepatic, perihilar or distal extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. These cholangiocarcinoma types differ in their biological behavior and management. The appropriate stratification of patients with regard to the anatomic location and stage of cholangiocarcinoma is a key determinate in their management. Staging systems can guide this stratification and provide prognostic information. In addition, staging systems are essential in order to compare and contrast the outcomes of different therapeutic approaches. A number of staging systems exist for cholangiocarcinoma-several early ones have been updated, and new ones are being developed. We discuss the emerging diagnostic criteria as well as the different staging systems for cholangiocarcinoma, and provide a critical appraisal regarding these advances in biliary tract malignancies.