The big-top tent hostels of Germany are giant slumber parties for extreme budget travelers
Picture, if you will, a refugee camp. Now make all the inmates happy-go-lucky backpackers. That's what I call a "a crash-in," a giant tent (or series of tents) set up on grounds at the edges of some European cities where you can crash for around $10 per person.
These places are usually summertime-only affairs, and they are NOT in the heart of downtown, so be prepared for a bit of a hike on public transportation. Expect anywhere from 20 to 190 roommates (co-ed), all spread out on the floor of a circus-style big-top and snoring away.
It's BYOSB (bring your own sleeping bag), though mats are provided à la kindergarten nap time, as (usually) are blankets (use them for extra padding).
Like some kind of über-budget joke on the Club Med method, you get a token for each paid night, which you trade in for a simple breakfast each morning. For a bit of privacy, most let you bring your own tent and set it up amongst the laundry lines strung between the big main tent and the bathrooms.
Crash-ins in Germany
The Tent, Munich (www.the-tent.com) - The most famous of the crash-ins, like a circus big top, only with a wooden floor, piles of people snoring away in seeping bags atop provided mats, and the only animals are the rowdier guests. Arrive early to snag one of the pathetically few lockers. €7.50 buys a spot on the floor (with a foam mat and blankets). Upgrade to a bed tent for €10.50. Breakfast is extra. It's open early June to early October.
Tent Station, Berlin (www.tentstation.de) - A campground in the heart of Berlin—not a big tent, but a proper campground. A site is €11 per night; tent rental another €4 (plus €1 for a camping mat). Or you can rent a caravan for Í10–€15 per night. Open April 21 through September.