Previously unidentified viruses, such as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, continue to emerge and threaten populations, while powerful new techniques have identified many new human and animal viruses. Similarly, existing viruses, from Ebola virus to chikungunya virus, are reemerging and spreading to new geographical regions. These viruses often pose a challenge for researchers to study due to their highly pathogenic nature. Lentiviral and rhabdoviral pseudotypes are excellent tools for studying enveloped viruses and have contributed to many recent advances in areas such as receptor usage, viral entry and serology. In particular, pseudotypes allow the safe study of unknown or highly pathogenic viruses. They also allow the initial characterization of aspects of infection such as cellular tropism for difficult to culture viruses. In this review we will introduce various pseudotyping systems for emerging viruses, including chikungunya virus, Ebola virus, SARS and MERS coronaviruses and Nipah virus, as well as their use in diverse studies including drug screening and antibody neutralization. We will also discuss the limitations and potential caveats using pseudotypes.