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How trust in providers affects health care-seeking behaviour is not well understood. Focus groups and household surveys were conducted in Cambodia to examine how villagers describe their trust in public and private providers, and to assess whether a difference exists in provider trust levels. Our findings suggest the reasons for trusting public and private providers differ, and that villagers’ trust in and relationship with providers is one of the important considerations affecting where they seek care. People believed that public providers were ‘honest’ and ‘sincere’, did not ‘bad mouth people’ and explained the ‘status of [the] disease’. Villagers trusted public providers for their skills and abilities, and for an effective referral system. In contrast, respondents noted that seeing private providers was ‘comfortable and easy’, that they ‘come to our home’ and patients can ‘owe [them] some money’. Private providers were trusted for being very friendly and approachable, extremely thorough and careful, and easy to contact. Among those who sought care in the past 30 days, trust in the health care provider was listed as the fifth and second most important consideration for choosing public or private providers, respectively. This study illustrates the importance of trust as a unique concept that can affect people’s choice of health care providers in a low-income country.