Membrane transporters set the framework organising the complexity of plant metabolism in cells, tissues and organisms. Their substrate specificity and controlled activity in different cells is a crucial part for plant metabolism to run pathways in concert. Transport proteins catalyse the uptake and exchange of ions, substrates, intermediates, products and cofactors across membranes. Given the large number of metabolites, a wide spectrum of transporters is required. The vast majority of in silico annotated membrane transporters in plant genomes, however, has not yet been functionally characterised. Hence, to understand the metabolic network as a whole, it is important to understand how transporters connect and control the metabolic pathways of plant cells. Heterologous expression and in vitro activity studies of recombinant transport proteins have highly improved their functional analysis in the last two decades. This review provides a comprehensive overview of the recent advances in membrane protein expression and functional characterisation using various host systems and transport assays.