I have just visited Panama City and decided to stay in the Santa Ana section to save money. First off, let me mention that upon arrival at the international airport I asked two people where to get the bus into town and both denied there was one! If you walk out of the airport for about one block there are deluxe type express buses that take you into the city for 1 dollar. When I got off near Cinco de Mayo, I saw a sign for Hotel Ideal, a few blocks away. This place is cheap ( my room with private bath was 19 dollars) but very seedy. In fact, it is rather falling apart inside but the rooms are clean. Ask for one away from the bar if you like peace. The area is busy and I never felt unsafe even at night. Although I am not suggesting midnight strolls here. There is a nice and low to moderate priced restaurant (the Napoli) nearby. If you are intrepid or broke, it is possible to stay in Panama City for a little bit of money, And here you meet the real locals.