Homestay At Rachel’s: Ngculu Street, Orlando East, Soweto, South Africa *

As a traveller, an excellent way of getting a flavour for the real local culture and ways of a pace is to actually stay with someone who ordinarily lives there. Also known as a “homestay”. And so my South African adventure gave me a lot of various experiences, including the bonus of spending a night with a local family in Soweto, just east of Johannesburg.

My homestay was easily arranged through the excellent Soweto Backpackers, run by a local lad, Lebo. Lebo invited me to stay with his mother Rachel for a night in their house in Orlando East, part of the massive township of Soweto.

Leaving Soweto Backpackers, Lebo himself drove me to his mother’s in his own car and came inside for a chat as I got unpacked and into my new bedroom and homestay for the night. 

I had already had my dinner that night in Soweto, beef, bread and vegetables with orange juice and a Carling Black Label beer to wash it down. So this “homestay” experience would be all about the family and the lifestyle rather than the food. I am sure the chance to sample Rachel’s food would have been there, but besides she is an older lady and a proud mother and grandmother and has had a tough hard life so it wouldn’t have seemed right somehow.

I was introduced to Rachel my host first of all. A wonderful lady with a tidy, proud house. And of course a great son in Lebo.

Lebo’s sister also stayed there with her son. The sister is called Ketso and the son is Zama. I liked the names.

The family were very welcoming, but not overly chatty. It was nice just spending time with them. Of course English is also not their main dialect, they speak a variety of languages in South Africa. Afrikaans being one of them. They also posed for photos no problem. Lebo left me off and I was free to relax and sit on the settee (sofa) with Rachel and watch TV.

View of Rachel’s House from the back garden. A bungalow, one storey, no double glazing or fancy stuff, but just what Rachel needed.

In the back garden, they have built an extra living area with bedrooms, shower and toilet. This is to accommodate extra guests and for the purpose of the homestay. Due to the popularity of South Africa during World Cup 2010, these extra rooms and beds were essential to increase revenue for places like Soweto Backpackers, which run these homestays as an alternative bed for the night.

A relaxing seat out the back with South Africa World Cup 2010 on it. I missed the World Cup in South Africa by 7 months – I was there in January 2011.

The amazing comfort of a Soweto homestay. I slept like a log here. So cosy and comfy. One of the better nights of sleep I had on that trip actually. I was also in my own room which was excellent. Though the homestay does have another room. And I met two other foreigners who were staying there – however these guys are German guys who are actually working locally for a while! They are Tino and Nils – helping out with kids.

My homestay family on the settee together – Ketso, Zama and Rachel.

Of course I told them a bit about my country and asked them to hold the Northern Ireland football flag I had with me.

With Zama and Rachel and my Northern Ireland flag.

I just relaxed and sat and watched TV with Rachel. I asked if she watches TV a lot and she said yes, every night it’s what she does. She had regular programmes that she didn’t miss. This is her lifestyle. Relaxing. It was the first time I’d watched TV in a while. By 11 pm ish she went to bed and I was tired too. Slept amazingly!

The back of Rachel’s house in day light when I woke up at dawn the next morning.

There is also a decent sized back garden.

The extra building out the back, where I stayed.

Front garden.

Kitchen including Zama’s school bag.

Typical Orlando East kitchen.


Quite secure and safe – a gate and a driveway round the side of Rachel’s house.

Zama’s school certificate.

Zama ready for school. He is a football fan, but I cannot remember if it is for Orlando Pirates or Kaiser Chiefs. The Pirates play at the local stadium however, which I also visited while staying in Soweto.

Zama and I. A very pleasant kid. He got picked up by a school bus directly from the front door and out he went to school.

Back of the house again. You get an idea as to how small it is. But these families have everything they need within. It’s a much more basic lifestyle than the life I led in Australia at the time. We are living in a material world, yet here there is less desire to own material things. 

Side of the house. 

Rachel’s house was on Ngculu Street in Orlando East. Most of the houses nearby are the same style. None are two storey.

Zama heads for school.

The morning sun shine on Ngculu Street where I stayed.

Ngculu Street again, very typical of the street styles in Soweto. I stayed in both Orlando West and Orlando East there.

And a final photo before I said my farewells and thanks to Rachel who had been a very quiet, respectful and pleasant lady to stay with. For the rest of my trip in Soweto I would be staying at Soweto Backpackers, in Orlando West.

What – A Soweto Homestay Experience

Where – Ngculu Street, Orlando East, Soweto, Gauteng, SOUTH AFRICA

Who With – Rachel, Ketso and Zama

Nationalities Met – South African, German

Strange Currencies – South African Rand

Key Song –

RACHEL Stevens – SWEET DREAMS MY LA EX (well my host was Rachel and I had sweet dreams there…):

My Videos –




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