I am going to give it a shot and see if any Indians r on this forum or Americans who have been over to India. I"m going to Mangalore in December to visit friends and I'm going to stay one month. I wanted to see a little of South India. Mangalore is on the west coast of India and I wanted to go to this village in Tamil Nadu on the East where Srinivasa Ramanujan was born, from what I understand it's there near the east coast. I've always wanted to go there for so many years as he's someone I've always been fascinated with
Anyway, I am just not familiar with how it works over there. All my Indian friends tell me its not like US and you really need to know people to get around, so I didn't know if anyone had any suggestions. I thought I'd go by train. How is it really? I speak some Hindi, but no Kannadda/Tamil, etc.
I just typed a very long response for you but for some reason it did not post. So sorry but I only have time for a short post. If you want email me or leave me your email and I can answer any more questions.
India is hard to explain it is nothing like the us especially when it comes to travel. Traveling is hard, frustrating,, dirty, long, and uncomfortable but part of the journey. During my travels to over 20 cities in India I did not make it that far down south. Hampi was the farthest south we made it and probably the best place we visited. I did a lot of mid-budget traveling taking over night buses and trains not booking the most expensive and not the cheapest. We used a lot of travel agents to book buses as they usually spoke english and were plentiful. Shop around some will rip you off. Trains were pretty easy to book once you found out the train numbers you needed and there was usually a line for that at the train station. Watch out locals do not believe in lines we found out. I would say it was not necessary to know someone but I do recommend a good travel book such as lonely planet. A lot of people speak english and usually will not mind helping you just ask a few b/c they will give you answers even if they have no clue.
feel free to ask any questions