The thing about driving in Panama City (which I have yet to do, but my boyfriend has done it and I have been along for the ride) is that you're bound to get lost. Everyone I know who has driven in the city has gotten lost, even after they've been there before, even when they're going places they've been before. It's a tricky place -- winding roads, one-way streets, construction, and few road signs.
Here are a few things that might help you out:
Take the bus. If you live outside the city, take the bus into the city and then take cabs throughout the city. Avoid getting lost altogether.
GPS. Keep in mind that this doesn't always help -- we've never tried it, but we had a friend type in the major mall, Albrook, and the GPS didn't know what the heck she was talking about. Another friend raves about Waze, a real-time smart-phone app that keeps you up to speed on detours and even speed traps thanks to the updates by other users. I don't have a smart phone, so I don't know, but try it out and let me know what you think.
Ask a cab driver. For the price of a cab fee (usually $3-5), you can ask a driver to lead you out of trouble. From what our friends have said, they are usually more than happy to do this. In one case, the driver said, "I'm going that way, anyway" and didn't even charge them.
Don't feel too guilty about pulling some weird turn-arounds and cutting in. Do it safely, of course, but drivers there do that nonsense all the time -- no one will be surprised, and you might not even get honked at. Just keep your cool when someone does it to you.
Stay calm. We were lost on our most recent trip, and tension in the car is no fun. Remember, you're always somewhere, and if you were able to get there, you're able to get back.