I stayed at this guesthouse in January 2005 for 10 days. I chose it because it stated clearly on the company website that each unit was an "apartment " with kitchen and bathroom.
I arrived late-morning and was met by one of the owners who checked me in. The place was very quiet. Silent. Our voices were echoing off the walls. I asked if they had many guests and he said yes and elaborated about the group of British guys they had staying there and a couple of Americans too. At the conclusion of check-in, he demanded a payment in cash for my entire stay up front. I said I wasn't expecting that and only had enough cash for 3 days but that I could pay him the balance the next day. He said he could not accept that and marched me over to an ATM a block away and stood over me while I withdrew the balance.
Yes, I thought it was odd. Yes, I should have insisted on seeing the room first. Yes, I definitely knew better! I was tired and pressured after a long trip, so I didn't, so that part was my fault. The building itself is lovely and it made a good initial impression. It's an old apartment house in Zizkov which has obviously undergone a gut-renovation and been updated to modern standards with exposed brick, restored wooden plank floors, etc. So I convinced myself against my better judgment that everything would be fine.
When I went to my room I was surprised to find it was much smaller than I expected, and there was no kitchen. There was a dirty 2-burner hotplate and a mini-fridge. The utensils were crud-encrusted too. This so-called kitchen was right next to the bed. I must state emphatically that in no way was this room an apartment. It was just a very small room.
I took a nap and realized later in the day that the place was still dead quiet. I went down to the office and it was locked. No one was around. There didn't appear to be any guests around either. Using my hairdryer (with a converter), the fuse blew, extinguishing every single light in the house. I called the owners and a different guy came over in about 30 mintues and fixed everything. I asked him if there were any other guests and he said no, it was just me. It freaked me out because I was a single woman traveller. I am used to Zizkov - it's a little rough around the edges, but I like it. But I don't necessarily want to be staying in a big, old house all by myself with no security in Zizkov in January when the nights are long and anyone can walk through the front door.
I asked the inn-keeper if I could please just check out the next day because I didn't feel comfortable staying there. He said "Well, no, actually it is impossible, because we have already deposited your money, and there is no way we can take it out now."
So I was stuck there for 10 days. It was spooky. The room was depressing. I was the only one there the whole time.
Additionally, no one ever came to clean or empty the garbage. I bought supplies and cleaned the room myself. I emptied the garbage in public bins on the street. I left the room much cleaner than I found it.
I love Prague and have been many times, but on this trip I was freaked out and lonely the whole time I was there. It was so cold outside, but I dreaded going back to the Ariva at night. I know people say the hotel room doesn't matter - that you only go there to sleep, but I beg to differ. I am someone who is affected by their surroundings and their lodging. In the winter especially when it's cold and there aren't a lot of people on the street, it's important to have a nice, safe place to return to. The Ariva wasn't it.
So the moral of this story is, if someone is pressuring you to pay cash up front, do not do it. Do not allow them to embarrass you. Once you have handed over the cash you have no leverage if something goes wrong. If they demand cash up front, it is never for a good reason. At the very least, inspect your room, keep your eyes open, ask a million questions and do not be afraid to offend. And do not commit to more than one night unless you are absolutely sure you are comfortable. Do not be intimidated that every hotel in Prague is booked. There will always be something available. At the moment they have a glut of rooms and fewer tourists because of the strong Czech Crown.