Abstract The evolutionary ‘decision’ to store genetic information away from the place of protein synthesis, in a separate compartment, has forced eukaryotic cells to establish a system to transport mRNAs from the nucleus to the cytoplasm for translation. To ensure export to be fast and efficient, cells have evolved a complex molecular interplay that is tightly regulated. Over the last few decades, many of the individual players in this process have been described, starting with the composition of the nuclear pore complex to proteins that modulate co-transcriptional events required to prepare an mRNP for export to the cytoplasm. How the interplay between all the factors and processes results in the efficient and selective export of mRNAs from the nucleus and how the export process itself is executed within cells, however, is still not fully understood. Recent advances in using proteomic and single molecule microscopy approaches have provided important insights into the process and its kinetics. This review summarizes these recent advances and how they led to the current view on how cells orchestrate the export of mRNAs. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Nuclear Transport and RNA Processing.