Stroke is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Currently more than two thirds of the burden of stroke occurs in developing countries. Development of strategies for prevention and management of stroke in these countries requires data on incidence, risk factors and management practices that are relevant to the specific socioeconomic and cultural factors present in these populations. Yet currently available data come almost exclusively from developed countries. Herein, we aim to discuss some of the issues, impediments and opportunities faced by researchers undertaking population-based studies on the burden of stroke in developing countries. Important criteria to be addressed include the establishment of productive working relationships with both local collaborators and the community; the identification of an appropriate population group; and development of a working protocol which takes into account potential language barriers and the need for cultural sensitivity. When possible the protocol should include similar methods to studies conducted elsewhere so that comparisons can be made between regions. Furthermore, the results of such studies should be disseminated in an appropriate and timely manner to the local community and appropriate government and nongovernment organisations. This will enable the development and implementation of prevention and intervention programs to reduce the impact of stroke in these nations.