The reduction in time for training at the workplace has created a challenge for the traditional apprenticeship model of training. Simulation offers the opportunity for repeated practice in a safe and controlled environment, focusing on trainees and tailored to their needs. Recent technological advances have led to the development of various simulators, which have already been introduced in surgical training. The complexity and fidelity of the available simulators vary, therefore depending on our recourses we should select the appropriate simulator for the task or skill we want to teach. Educational theory informs us about the importance of context in professional learning. Simulation should therefore recreate the clinical environment and its complexity. Contemporary approaches to simulation have introduced novel ideas for teaching teamwork, communication skills and professionalism. In order for simulation-based training to be successful, simulators have to be validated appropriately and integrated in a training curriculum. Within a surgical curriculum, trainees should have protected time for simulation-based training, under appropriate supervision. Simulation-based surgical education should allow the appropriate practice of technical skills without ignoring the clinical context and must strike an adequate balance between the simulation environment and simulators.