The Aero Club has a cosy atmosphere…
Aero Club of East Africa: Our full report
The dozen rooms at the old Aero Club of East Africa, at Nairobi’s domestic Wilson Airport are available for non-members and make a very convenient base if you’re flying out of Wilson the next morning – or if you've just arrived at Wilson and won't be leaving Nairobi until the next day. The convivial bar and excellent restaurant are real bonuses.
With connections between Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport sometimes taking an hour or more, depending on traffic, the option of taking a room for the night at Wilson (an option that isn’t available at the international airport) has some appeal. If you're a flying enthusiast, then you'll probably enjoy every minute of it: during the day you can watch small planes through the fence, taking off and landing to your heart's content.
The club gates are on the main Wilson Airport road that runs inside the permiter fence. Once through a basic security check your vehicle will park in the shady car park just in front of the old main building. A simple reception desk, sofa and notice boards comprise the reception area, with toilets to one side, the members’ bar to the left and the main lounge and restaurant straight ahead. To one side of the cosy club restaurant (“The Creative Kitchen"), there’s a pleasant terrace with further dining tables and chairs, and then the lawned rear gardens with further seating and tables under the trees and a 10-metre, rectangular, unheated swimming pool.
The interior of the club is replete with African aeronautical ephemera, photos, trophies, a large display cabinet and some quite large pieces of aircraft hardware.
The general style of the 12 rooms at the Aero Club is that of a comfortable boarding house or hostel, with no frills. They have two standards of rooms, the Old Wing close to the airport perimeter road and the New Wing a little further back in the grounds. There’s not much of a price difference, but the Old Wing, being close to the busy Langata Road, can be noisy with traffic at almost any time of the day or night. In the Old Wing, rooms #1 to #4 are small singles, and rooms #5 and #6 modest doubles. In the New Wing, rooms #7 to #12 can be set up as twins or doubles. Rooms #11 and #12 are larger, and probably the best rooms at the club. Room #10 is flamboyantly decorated in huge wall murals and posters depicting fighter planes and the like, installed by the Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab after a recent air show. All the rooms have mosquito nets, clothes hanging space, TVs with rather poor reception and limited channels, dubious old room phones, tea and coffee-making kits and jugs of drinking water.
The simple tiled bathrooms have walk-in showers, single basins, flush loos and mini soaps, but no other toiletries. The towels were freshly laundered and reasonably good. There’s adequate lighting and UK-style sockets for charging. Mains electricity, although subject to occasional power cuts, is in theory on 24-hours a day.
The club’s check-out time is 10:30 and you’ll need to clear it with the manager or receptionist if you need to stay longer. They may require you to pay a late checkout fee or a day room rate.
Your main activities here are likely to be packing and preparing for travels, but if you have some time on your hands, the pool would be nice on a hot afternoon. The club also has two squash courts (available on a first-come-first-served basis) and a half-size snooker table.
Our viewStaying at the Aero Club is a very reasonable, secure option for those on more of a budget. The club interior is quirkily interesting, the shady grounds are very pleasant and the excellent restaurant and bar dependable.
Ideal length of stay: 1 night
Directions: The Aero Club is located inside the precincts of Wilson Airport, a one- or two-minute taxi ride from arrival and departure areas.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: The committee of the Aero Club of East Africa.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Room Only
Food quality: Catering at the Aero Club has been outsourced to an experienced chef with international experience, Neil McCarthy, who runs a very good small team – which explains why the food here is so much better than you might expect.
As well as snacks, burgers, fish and chips, all-day breakfasts, sandwiches and salads, there's quite an extensive international menu, plus daily specials chalked up on the blackboard. An excellent breakfast (which is an additional cost to your room and is settled at the club) can be served from 06:00, and last orders for dinner are taken at 21:00.
Our "Full English" breakfast (US$13) was extremely good, and came with toast and excellent preserves on the side. For meals and snacks throughout the day, there's plenty of choice, including vegetarian options (like a roasted carrot, butternut and zucchini burger, US$11), and some tempting main course salads.
If you're arriving late, you can order food by special request at any time, but out-of-hours orders need to be made in advance.
The bar is open until midnight ("or until the last person leaves").
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £10-15
Drinks included: Drinks from the bar are reasonably priced - beers US$3 and bottled water by the litre US$2.50.
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome
Property’s age restrictions: None.
Special activities & services: There is an unheated swimming pool in the garden near the restaurant/bar terrace. Under 12s must be supervised as there is no lifeguard. The restaurant does a small children's menu (most dishes around US$8).
Equipment: They have high chairs but no baby cots.
Generally recommended for children: We think the Aero Club is fine for a brief family stays, but parents should bear in mind that this is a private members' club and noisy children may prove unpopular with some members.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: There is a backup generator.
Communications: There are room phones but they don't work very well. Mobile coverage is good, though you're only allowed to use mobiles in your room or in the gardens, not in the clubhouse, bar or restaurant. Free Wi-fi is provided with no password protection. Members and temporary members are not allowed to make illegal downloads.
TV & radio: Guest rooms have old-fashioned TVs with a limited range of channels - NTV, Family, Citizen, KBC/TV Africa, KTN. The TV in the members' lounge has MNet satellite service. You're not allowed to play music around the public areas - keep your headhpones in!
Water supply: Mains
Water supply notes: The tap water comes from Nairobi's mains supply and is not recommended for drinking. Solar and electric water heaters provide hot water for each room block. Water pressure is variable. Bottled water is sourced in large bottles and put into jugs in the rooms.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a first-aid box at the Aero Club and medical facilities are available within Wilson Airport.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: As well as the secure perimeter fence around Wilson Airport, there is a 24-hour askari at the Aero Club gate.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are scattered around the club premises and rooms. Fire training takes place every so often.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: There is an extra charge for laundry but costs are reasonable - for example US$1.20 for a shirt and US$0.50c for underwear. Clothes are ironed and will be delivered after 24 hours.
Money: A very limited foreign exchange is available. There are no safes in the rooms and while valuables could be left with the receptionist on duty or the manager if available, this i not the norm. Security at this private members' club is considered to be very good.
Accepted payment on location: Credit cards – Visa, MasterCard and Amex – are accepted with no surcharge.