Parapharyngeal space tumours account for only 0.5 per cent of all head and neck tumours. Due to their inherent location, they present with varied non-specific signs and symptoms, resulting in a delay in diagnosis and unnecessary procedures, such as a ‘tonsillectomy’ or ‘incision and drainage’ of a ‘quinsy’. Thirty-one patients, operated on over an 18-year period (1981 to 1998), in the Department of Otolaryngology, Singapore General Hospital, are presented. Their ages ranged from 21 to 86 years, with a mean of 52 years, with equal sex distribution. The commonest aetiology was a deep lobe of parotid tumour (44 per cent), followed by neurilemmomas (18 per cent), there was only one paraganglioma. The transcervical and transparotid approaches were the commonest used. The mean surgical time was three hours, mean hospital stay was 5.3 days and post-operative complications were minimal. The average follow-up time was 5.6 years. Although parapharyngeal space tumours are uncommon, recognizing them would enable the correct sequence of investigations, instead of unnecessary procedures resulting in an increased morbidity for the patient.