I once been in Zurich where host told me that I can get a free map in any hotel for free. I did not get into details that time but now I am curious, is it true for any city? Where can I ask for maps when arrive to rail or air station?
At least in Europe, I think without many exceptions, every larger city or place with some level of tourism has a tourist information office, which offers free information brochures and/or a more or less decent map of the city centre.
When coming to a new city, there is most likely a tourist information office at least at the airport, at the main railway station or near the city centre where you can pick up these brochures. Most hotels are also likely to carry a selection of them and either offering them at a self service display or handing them out at the reception desk.
In case of Zurich, you can also read all the available brochures from the tourist office online, or if you wish, have them sent to your home address for free before you go to Zurich.
This is most definitely not true for every city - counter examples are easy to construct. However large chain hotels do sometimes have rather terrible maps of their neighbourhoods available, and rental car companies also have rather terrible maps they give you. Having sworn my way around three different Pacific Islands trying to use free maps, I recommend you don't rely on what you can get on site for free.
Very touristy destinations do have tourist handbooks that include maps in their airports. Sydney (Australia) has them, for example. But I didn't see any in the Zurich airport, or in any other European airport. I also found it a challenge to buy good maps of a city from inside that city.
If you want a map that tells you roughly whether the Eiffel Tower is on the south or north side of the Seine, or whether the zoo is on the way to the airport from your hotel, then probably a free map will work for you. If you want to actually use that map to navigate, I recommend you think again. Now that I've tried to do that - for driving and for public transport - I won't do it again.
I would not rely on maps of hotels in European cities, or in the rest of the world for that matter, but if you are in a city and you can not find the tourist information office, the TIC happens to be closed for the night or the TIC is closed forever, your best bet might well be a friendly hotel.
All hotels I have asked for a map it was free, Tourist Information Centers do at times charge for even a simple map.
And in some cities you will find the hotel maps in all hotels, even the cheaper ones, and they are good enough that you do not want to buy maps, like Paris.
An other trick is to find a map on the street and take a photo on your phone or digital camera. You can do an overview and detail photos if the map is big. Also not a sure way, as you do rely on maps being there, but when they are there it is better than no map. Taking a photo of an online map might be a better option, but you have to think about it before you tidy your laptop away.
In the United States printed maps are getting hard to find. Recently I flew into Pittsburgh International Airport and the large convenience store/gas station next to the car rental had no maps AT ALL. None. I drove to several other convenience stores and got the same answer: no maps. I finally found a store that had a few maps, 80 miles away from the airport, and the maps they had were large scale.
I would definitely recommend ordering maps ahead of time and taking them with you. (Just beware that some countries like China, Russia, Viet Nam, and North Korea, consider maps to be secret or military information, and they may seize them, so do not bring maps in or out of those countries.)