Yellow fever (YF) remains a public health issue in endemic areas despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. In 2015-2016, urban outbreaks of YF were declared in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a sylvatic outbreak has been ongoing in Brazil since December 2016. Of great concern is the risk of urban transmission cycles taking hold in Brazil and the possible spread to countries with susceptible populations and competent vectors. Vaccination remains the cornerstone of an outbreak response, but a low vaccine stockpile has forced a sparing-dose strategy, which has thus far been implemented in affected African countries and now in Brazil. Accurate laboratory confirmation of cases is critical for efficient outbreak control. A dearth of validated commercial assays for YF, however, and the shortcomings of serological methods make it challenging to implement YF diagnostics outside of reference laboratories. We examine the advantages and drawbacks of existing assays to identify the barriers to timely and efficient laboratory diagnosis. We stress the need to develop new diagnostic tools to meet current challenges in the fight against YF.